Mueller is done, but the political wrangling has just started

In this video from the Washington Post, reporter Matt Zapotosky explains what happens with special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia:

It could be a while before we see everything in the report. With Mueller recommending no new indictments it certainly appears he couldn’t definitely prove collusion, but I think the Trump supporters on Twitter are taking their victory laps way too early. 34 people, including several of Trump’s famously sleazy colleagues and collarborators, have already been indicted. I suspect the final report will include a lot of damning information about the President.

And even if Mueller completely clears Trump, other investigations are still ongoing:

Trump may face significant peril from federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to legal experts. His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in Feb. 27 congressional testimony that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is examining Trump’s business practices and financial dealings. Cohen already has implicated Trump in campaign finance law violations to which he pleaded guilty in August 2018 as part of the Southern District investigation.

Cohen admitted he violated campaign finance laws by arranging, at Trump’s direction, “hush money” payments shortly before the 2016 presidential election to porn film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal to prevent damage to Trump’s candidacy. Both women said they had sexual relationships with Trump more than a decade ago. He has denied that.

Prosecutors said the payments constituted illegal campaign contributions intended to influence the election. Under federal election laws, such donations cannot exceed $2,700 and need to be publicly disclosed. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, received $130,000. McDougal received $150,000.

[…]

A defamation lawsuit against Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on his reality television show “The Apprentice,” continues in New York state court after a judge in 2018 allowed it to proceed. Zervos sued Trump after he called her and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct liars and retweeted a post labeling her claims a hoax.

Trump has agreed to provide written answers to questions from Zervos by Sept. 28, according to a court filing.

Zervos accused Trump of kissing her against her will at his New York office in 2007 and later groping her at a meeting at a hotel in California. More than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them years before he entered politics.

[…]

A lawsuit filed by the New York state Attorney General’s Office has already led the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was presented as the charitable arm of Trump’s business empire, to agree in December 2018 to dissolve, and the litigation continues.

The state is seeking an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from leadership roles in any other New York charity. Trump has said the lawsuit was concocted by “sleazy New York Democrats.” The state’s Democratic attorney general accused the foundation of being “engaged in a “shocking pattern of illegality” and “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests” in violation of federal law.

[…]

Trump is accused in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia of violating anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution through his businesses’ dealings with foreign governments.

[…]

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether the committee that organized Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 accepted illegal donations from foreigners, misused funds or brokered special access to the administration for donors.

Trump likes to gloat about how well the economy has been doing, and you can’t deny that the Trump era has been a time of unprecedented prosperity – for lawyers.

The silence of Jody Wilson-Raybould

I’ve seen Liberal Facebook friends trying to downplay the brewing SNC-Lavalin scandal by noting that former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould hasn’t come out and said that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to interfere in its criminal prosecution.

They’re technically correct, because Ms. Wilson-Raybould is not allowed to say anything about it until the Prime Minister lets her do so:

Until Justin Trudeau waives solicitor-client privilege, we’re left to speculate about whether Wilson-Raybould was forced out because she couldn’t speak French, or because of Scott Brison’s resignation, or because the Patriots won another Super Bowl. ‘Tis a mystery for the ages

For those keeping score at home, during the comparatively quaint Mike Duffy expenses scandal, then-Prime Minster/history’s greatest fascist monster Stephen Harper instructed his lawyer to waive solicitor-client privilege protecting his PMO documents from the RCMP.

“Crippled” by bureaucracy

When President Orcasio-Cortez takes office, they’ll let it in but make him change that title.

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the United States from threats to its safety and security, such as (checks notes) a play about a disabled man living in rural Newfoundland:

An award-winning local play has been denied entry into the the United States on the grounds it is not “culturally unique.”

The play Crippled has received rave reviews, being named the Overcast’s “Best Thing to Happen in 2018” and awarded Best Production at the 2017 Fundy Fringe Fest.

But a two-year attempt to take the show to San Francisco has been denied by Homeland Security on the grounds that the show is not culturally unique.

St. John’s playwright Paul Power who wrote and performs in the play says they had a number of letters from nationally recognized artists and experts, but this does not seem to have been enough.

Power says the play is an autobiographical piece about a man living with a disability coping with the death of his partner, which makes it personal and a unique expression on stage, but apparently US Border Security disagrees.

The decision can be appealed, but San Francisco’s EXIT Theater has decided to pull the plug:

…the denial letter Augello received from USCIS reads, “The contract, electric correspondences and itinerary you provided is insufficient because it did not provide any details to demonstrate that all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events.”

“For them to be in charge of saying Paul can’t bring his show there—they don’t have their expertise,” Augello says. “These [artists] are able to come here [as tourists]. They’re not a threat to our safety.”

The denial letter Augello received from USCIS stipulates that EXIT Theatre has a month to appeal the decision, but Augello says the opportunity has already passed to produce Crippled this season. She says that current policy for allowing international artists to perform in the United States is too restrictive for independent artists like the ones she works with.

There’s nothing “culturally unique” about Justin Beiber, either, but he’s allowed to perform in the United States all he wants.

(Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they’re trying to keep more Canadian performers out.)

Canada has its own rules about foreign entertainers trying to enter the country, but EXIT Theater’s founder says they aren’t applied nearly as strictly:

“We have a difficult time getting indie performers in the country,” she says. “But as an indie performer myself, all I need to go to Canada is an invitation letter—and there are some restrictions, financial, et cetera—but it’s very simple to go to Canada and work the fringe circuit.”

The United States has a particularly ignorant xenophobe in the White House right now, but there’s nothing new about the labyrinthine rules to be followed if you want to enter the country legally. If Trump wonders why so many people try to enter illegally, he could start by reading his own country’s immigration laws. Or have someone read them to him.

Social media’s weekend of glory

I’ve quit and rejoined Twitter several times over the past year, but this is the exchange that finally broke me:

He didn’t write Unforgiven.

Michael Green is a grown man who wrote Blade Runner 2049, Logan and Alien: Covenant. Nick Sandmann, whose life he wants to destroy forever, and whom he would rather hate than see him repent for his alleged sins, is a high school student.

A high school student who, aside from wearing that stupid hat, really didn’t freaking do anything wrong.

Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby. The BHI has existed since the late 19th century, and is best describes as a black nationalist cult movement; its members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites, and often express condemnation of white people, Christians, and gays. DC-area Black Hebrews are known to spout particularly vile bigotry.

Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people. What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.

One student did not get out of Phillips way as he marched, and gave the man a hard stare and a smile that many have described as creepy. This moment received the most media coverage: The teen has been called the product of a “hate factory” and likened to a school shooter, segregation-era racist, and member of the Ku Klux Klan. I have no idea what he was thinking, but portraying this as an example of obvious, racially-motivated hate is a stretch. Maybe he simply had no idea why this man was drumming in his face, and couldn’t quite figure out the best response? It bears repeating that Phillips approached him, not the other way around.

And that’s all there is to it. Phillips walked away after several minutes, the Black Hebrew Israelites continued to insult the crowd, and nothing else happened.

Here’s a close-up video of the encounter that went viral on social media this past weekend. Indiginous protestor Nathan Phillips, drum in hand, goes toward the throng of students, many of whom start chanting along with him. When he stands directly in front of Sandmann and starts drumming and singing in his face, you can hear someone say “I’m so confused.”

Some of the kids make “tomahawk chop” motions and act obnoxiously, but Sandmann literally doesn’t do anything. From the video he looks like he doesn’t really know what to do.

Sandmann is frankly the least disrespectful person there, but he’s the one who’s been designated the face of hatred in Donald Trump’s America and doxxed accordingly. (Well, him and another kid who wasn’t even there. Great job, internet!)

As of this writing, a lot of important people, and also Kathy Griffin, are still itching for a fight. This tweet, from a self-professed journalist, illustrates the mob mentality so perfectly it could have been scripted:

Yeah, what kind of asshole jumps to conclusions without reading the whole thing?

“I refuse to read it” should be Twitter’s new motto. Actually, “smoking crater where a social media platform once stood” should be Twitter’s new motto.

As for Michael Green, it’s not just that he rushed to judgment and sicced his followers on a teenager, but that he wants to stay angry at him. He’s asked point-blank if he wants the kid to repent and become a member of a more harmonious society, and his answer is a definitive “no.” The anger is precisely the point. It’s the 93 octane fuel on which Twitter runs.

Hopefully, Sandmann will grow up and make amends for wearing the hat associated with the worst President of our lifetimes. And hopefully Green will grow up and make amends for writing Green Lantern.

The “Jews did it” defence

He’s just protesting Israeli policy toward the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

A lawyer defending someone charged with murder is acceptable.

A lawyer defending someone charged with the murder of Jewish people is acceptable.

A lawyer defending someone charged with the murder of Jewish people by saying the Jews staged the murder themselves is really, really not fucking acceptable.

Tuesday was D-Day for Mehdi Nemmouche, the main suspect in the attack on the Belgian Jewish museum in Brussels almost five years ago.

The 33-year-old alleged jihadist, who stands accused of murdering two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian museum receptionist on May 24, 2014, was due to speak for the first time in court along with his co-defendant, Nacer Bendrer.

The victims have been waiting for years to hear what Nemmouche had to say – but since his arrest, he has exercised his right to remain silent. After a long day of waiting as legal procedures were followed and a juror was expelled, the accused pleaded not guilty and then said he chose not to speak for the moment.

[…]

Defence lawyer Laquay had told journalists about their strategy before introducing it in court. Laquay maintains the Israeli couple that were killed were not tourists but actually members of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.

“Emanuel and Myriam Riva had worked for Mossad. The lawyers representing their families have already revealed this. Israeli intelligence set up Mehdi Nemmouche. He wasn’t in the Jewish museum during the shooting,” Laquay told FRANCE 24, declining to detail the “scientific” evidence he says he has to support his claims.

“These murdered Jews were actually Mossad agents all along.” It’s the sophisticated European version of Alex Jones insisting that the children butchered at Sandy Hook never really existed.

38% of European Jews have considered leaving the continent because of surging antisemitism. I’m shocked it’s that low.

Kicked by the Shin

Why vote for the lesser evil?

It’s been quite a week for candidates in the Burnaby South federal by-election embarrassing themselves. NDP sort-of-leader Jagmeet Singh was baffled by a question on CTV’s Question Period about the growing Canada-China feud, Liberal candidate Karen Wang quit the race after telling people to vote for her because of her race, and PPC candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson is a candidate for the PPC.

Meanwhile, the guy running for my own party wants you to know that if you defend accused criminals in court, you’re basically a criminal yourself:

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suggested his Burnaby South opponent, lawyer Jay Shin, had forgotten a basic principle of Canadian law after the Tory said Singh was “keeping criminals out of jail” in his days as a criminal defence lawyer.

Shin issued a press release accusing Singh of being soft on crime. The release came within hours of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing on Wednesday that there would be a byelection in Burnaby South and two other ridings on Feb. 25.

“While Jagmeet Singh has spent his pre-political career as a criminal defence lawyer keeping criminals out of jail, I have spent my legal career building Canadian businesses that create jobs and promote international trade,” wrote Shin, a business lawyer who has facilitated foreign investment in B.C.

[…]

Shin later told the NOW he wasn’t trying to discredit defence lawyers.

“They play an important role; everybody has a right to defence,” Shin said. “What I’m saying is he played that role: as a criminal lawyer, he defended criminals. That’s all I’m saying.”

Shin’s press release also said the NDP “go easy on criminals and have actively endorsed illegal immigration into our country.” 

Should Shin ever find himself charged with a crime, I trust that he will hold true to his principles, plead guilty and accept whatever the punishment the Crown asks for. Since the state is always right about such things.

I never thought an election in this country would see a worse selection of candidates than last year’s Ontario provincial contest. Sadly, I’m never pessimistic enough about such things.

Presumed drunk until proven sober

The USSR also didn’t care for impaired driving – or the presumption of innocence.

I despise drunk drivers – not just because of the lives they’ve destroyed, but because I’ve had to talk to so many of them at 2 in the morning when I’m on duty counsel for the night.  Take it from me: you don’t know true frustration until you find yourself trying to explain to an indignant, barely coherent drunkard his right to remain silent but also that it’s a criminal offence to refuse a police officer’s request for a breath sample.

Most people likely feel the same way, which is why no politician – even those who otherwise doubt the efficacy of “tough on crime” policies – ever lost votes by cracking down on impaired driving.   But even when everyone is agreed that the crime is inexcusable, it’s still possible for the government to go too far in fighting it.

And recent changes to Canada’s impaired-driving laws go way too far:

Canadians could now face criminal charges for driving with illegal amounts of alcohol in their system, even if they were stone cold sober while behind the wheel, under tough new impaired driving laws passed by Parliament, according to criminal defence lawyers.

Bill C-46, which came into effect last month, gives police wide-ranging new powers to demand sobriety tests from drivers, boaters and even canoeists.

Police no longer need to have any reasonable grounds to suspect you’re impaired, or driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, before demanding you submit to testing.

Refusing the test can result in a criminal charge.
But even drinking within two hours after you’ve stopped driving or boating could now get you arrested, if your BAC rises over .08.

[…]

Previously, if drivers could prove they weren’t yet over the legal limit  when they were stopped by police, a court could find them innocent.

The new law removes that defence.

“Its primary purpose is to eliminate risky behaviour associated with bolus drinking, sometimes referred to as drinking and dashing” Wilson-Raybould told Parliament.

But Brown calls the law a solution for a problem that rarely existed and claims it will “criminalize Canadians who have done nothing wrong.”

He points to number of scenarios where people park their cars with no intention of driving anytime soon, then start drinking.

If you drive yourself to a restaurant, bar or party and have a few drinks after you arrive, you can be found guilty of impaired driving. Even though you weren’t impaired when you were actually driving. I’m confident this will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada eventually, but many innocent people may have their lives thrown into complete turmoil in the meantime.

Last summer, the federal government made applicants for a summer-jobs program sign an attestation that its “core values” aligned with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And now this same government is trampling on the presumption of innocence, regardless of what s. 11(d) of the Charter reads.

A Liberal government picking and choosing what sections of the Charter holds sacrosanct? Shocking, I know.

How an online mob destroyed an autistic person’s life

 

screenshot

Ancient curse: “may your name become a Twitter hashtag.”

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a case of an Australian writer siccing her Twitter followers on a “creep” who turned out to have autism.  I wondered if my own son, who is on the autism spectrum, could someday find himself the target of an angry online mob.

The “Doorway Debbie” fiasco, in which the internet launched its two-minutes’ hate upon a woman with autism, does not settle my nerves:

On a midsummer day in July, Darsell Obregon ducked under an apartment building to shelter herself from the rain while waiting for an Uber. Minutes later, the front door swung open and out walked a 19-year-old girl who demanded that Obregon leave the premises immediately. The resident’s name is Arabelle Torres, a 19-year-old student at Brooklyn College who also has autism.

“I came downstairs and a woman was standing as I am right now and wouldn’t leave,” Torres, who was describing the seeds of events that led her life to change, said to me while standing outside of her home in Park Slope. What might have been an unremarkable high-strung incident that occurs hundreds of times a day in New York City, ended up becoming a fake news story that race-baited an incident without credible evidence of bigotry.

“Hey, ma’am, this is private property. Could you please move?” Torres recounts saying to Obregon, an assistant to fashion model Ashley Graham, who “just flat-out refused” to leave the premises.

“After about ten times of me saying, ‘Ma’am, go. This is private property,’ [Obregon] still refused. So I called the cops,” Torres said. “As a person with autism, I [was] scared. When somebody is blocking me from leaving … it is a big problem. And I was alone in that situation.”

As Torres dialed 911, Obregon whipped out her phone and began filming. Later that evening — Torres was at a Broadway show — the words “worthless skank” popped up on her phone. As dozens more messages poured in, she found out that Obregon had posted the exchange on social media accounts accompanied with hashtags associated with race-related events (even though Obregon is not black).

Hashtags such as #WhitePrivilege and #BBQBecky were included. BBQ Becky refers to an event during which a white woman called the police on black people for barbecuing in a public park, saying it was illegal for them to do so.

The anti-racist internet mob found Obregon’s posts and began to launch a seek and destroy campaign against Torres. “Your Facebook is out there now. Enjoy being slaughtered by the masses,” a California woman wrote.

[…]

Tamar Lapin reported the story at the New York Post. Lapin found the story at Ebony Magazine, a black interest news site. According to Lapin, Ebony broke the story. She called Torres’ cellphone saying that she wanted to hear the “other side” of the event. Torres insisted that her 911 call “had nothing to do with race,” and that she herself was not white, and she wasn’t even sure that Obregon was black. “I told her, ‘I think you’re exploiting this as a race issue when it’s not.’”

Even after revealing she has autism to the reporter at The Post, Torres was devastated to learn that the article still maintained that it was a black-white issue. It would seem that nothing Torres could say would stop the domino effect of the fake news.

Months later, the internet still knows Torres as “Doorway Debbie.” She has made numerous attempts at suicide. “I felt that nobody was going to do anything, no one was going to face any repercussions unless I were to kill myself,” Torres said. “I tried to kill myself, I cut myself. I just felt so done and I felt ‘this is never going to get better,’”

This isn’t the first time a twitter mob has rushed to judgment against an innocent person, and it won’t be the last.  Here’s a good online rule no one lives by: if a news story seems to perfectly confirm your biases and preferred narrative, it may be too good to be true – or, perhaps more accurately, too bad to confirm your righteous indignation.