Maybe some people just shouldn't be lawyers

Child-protection work makes up a significant part of my legal practice, and it can be absolutely heart-wrenching. Representing a criminal defendant and having his/her freedom largely in your hands is nothing compared to the pressure of representing parents who may literally have their children taken away.

And when your clients are of First Nations descent, it can be even more emotionally challenging. Not only are you representing an individual whose family may be torn apart, but you’re often seeing the effects of centuries of discriminatory and devastating government policies and social marginalization.

There’s really no way to fully prepare for this until you actually start doing it, but our law schools are not helping anyone by shielding prospective lawyers from these cases. But the University of Toronto has chosen to do just that:

The dean of the University of Toronto law school has apologized for a class assignment that he said relied on racial stereotypes about Indigenous people.

Some students in first-year law objected last week after being asked to consider a hypothetical scenario in which Indigenous parents, struggling with drug and alcohol issues, had placed their three children in care. A non-Indigenous family looked after the children for two years and was prepared to adopt them.

But the father, who had stopped drinking and remade his life, wanted to maintain access to the children. The students were asked to write a memo about the case, taking into account a 2017 Ontario law that gives priority to maintaining familial and cultural links for Indigenous children.

Edward Iacobucci sent an apology for the content of the assignment to all first-year law students last week. The dean wrote that the hypothetical scenario “included several troubling stereotypes about Indigenous people.”

[…]

No students would speak to The Globe on the record, but, in addition to concerns about the impact of stereotypes, some students said they did not feel properly supported in having to read upsetting details in real-life case law relating to the hypothetical case.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and a leading advocate for Indigenous children in the child welfare system, reviewed the assigned scenario and said on its face she found nothing problematic.

“Frankly, if students don’t learn about how to respond to these cases in university, I would be concerned about their capacity to do so when they graduate from a school of law,” Ms. Blackstock said.

“The reality is that First Nations kids are overrepresented among children in child welfare and that the leading drivers of it are poverty, poor housing and substance misuse linked to multigenerational trauma arising from colonialism writ large and residential schools in particular,” said Ms. Blackstock, who is also a professor of social work at McGill University.

More than half the children in foster care in Canada are Indigenous, even though they make up only a little more than 7.5 per cent of the youth population. …

Imagine a medical school apologizing for upsetting its students by teaching about pediatric cancer or Lou Gherig’s Disease. Imagine an engineering school apologizing for upsetting its students by teaching about fatal bridge collapses. That’s basically what’s happening here.

Being a lawyer is a noble pursuit, but it’s not for everyone. You are regularly forced to confront fact situations that may be disturbing and challenge your preconceived notions. A law school education should help you mentally and intellectually prepare for this.

The University of Toronto has chosen to coddle its students instead. And I suspect other law schools will follow.

Update: a U of T law student responded on Twitter.

When antisemitism is just a side issue

As I write this, we’re just a few hours away from finding out if this Iranian state-television host will become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

Corbyn’s chances of winning are slim, but after 2016, who can rule it out?

Bret Stephens acknowledges that many, maybe even most Labour voters aren’t antisemitic. But by their actions, they’re showing that they don’t think antisemitism is a deal-breaker:

…a ballot for Trump did not automatically mean that his voters shared his bigotries. Nor did it necessarily mean that they weren’t embarrassed by them.

It just meant that those bigotries weren’t deal-breakers. If their candidate was a birther, they could live with it. If he thought celebrity was a license for sexual predation, they could live with it. If he wanted to impose a religious test on immigrants; or discredit a judge on account of his ethnic background; or characterize the bulk of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” — that may all have been very unfortunate.

But, again, they could live with it. To adapt a line, they proved that the only thing necessary for bigots to be normalized is for the unbigoted to shrug.

[…]

As with Trump’s voters, there are all sorts of explanations and excuses for why Britons might vote Labour. Some feel disgusted by Johnson, who (like Hillary Clinton) stirs deep personal antipathies. Some see a Labour government as the likeliest way of stopping Brexit. Some are convinced that only Labour can save the country’s National Health Service.

The rationales vary and multiply. But they stop at this: Under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party has become, in the words of many of its own members (or former members), “institutionally anti-Semitic.” Dwell on the word “institutionally”: It means it isn’t just a matter of some bad apples. The question for the British electorate — and for anyone else who takes a rooting interest in the country’s politics — is whether or not they seriously care.

The latest evidence comes in the form of a recently leaked 53-page document by the 2,500-member Jewish Labour Movement (J.L.M.) to Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. It chronicles “relentless” and “daily” incidents of anti-Semitism within the party.

Just this week, in Jersey City, we saw where this sickness can spread if it’s left unchecked. And we’ve learned that some people are only concerned about it if they can use it blame the other team.

The President's charity scam

Remember when the President of the United States was caught running a scam charity, from which he used the proceeds to buy giant paintings of himself, and was forced to pay $2 million in damages? No?

It says a lot about this President that something like running a fraudulent charity can fall through the cracks:

President Trump has paid $2 million in court-ordered damages for misusing funds in a tax-exempt charity he controlled, the New York attorney general said Tuesday.

At least he paid. His contractors usually aren’t so lucky.

The payment was ordered last month by a New York state judge in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York attorney general, who alleged the president had illegally used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, pay off his businesses’ legal obligations and help his 2016 campaign.

The money was split among eight charities, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). The charities were the Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to the statement.

That one of the legitimate charities scammed by the white nationalists’ favorite President is the Holocaust Museum is…[chef’s kiss].

In addition, Trump agreed to distribute the remaining $1.8 million left in the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the same eight charities. In all, each charity received $476,140.41.

[…]

In a statement, attorneys for Trump said: “The legacy of the Trump Foundation — which gave away many millions to those in need at virtually no cost — is secure.” They did not answer a reporter’s query about whether Trump intended to count the court-ordered $2 million payment on his taxes as a charitable deduction.

(via Joe Walsh – the longshot Presidential candidate, not the “Life’s Been Good” guy – on Twitter)

On The Simpsons, Mr. Burns was once diagnosed with “Three Stooges Syndrome,” a condition in which he has every single disease known to man but they all kind of cancel each other out.

Similarly, Trump is embroiled in so many scandals that none of them can really gain any traction. And that’s why he thinks he’s indestructible. Hopefully the impeachment hearings are the slight breeze.

The books are next

Coming soon.

The National Post‘s Chris Selley, on the moral panic over allegedly anti-transgender feminist Meaghan Murphy speaking at the Toronto Public Library:

Nothing she said justified the massive crowd outside protesting the event, which forced those exiting to run a gauntlet of people yelling “shame!” or slip through a police-protected corridor. But this was the culmination of an extraordinary few weeks that saw some of the Toronto library’s staunchest supporters turn on the institution and its head librarian, Vickery Bowles, for allegedly tolerating “transphobic hate speech.”

Bowles has gamely defended the library’s commitment to free speech as an intellectual principle: “It’s so tied to the core values of library service,” she said in an interview. And she has defended it as a legal obligation, under the Charter, for a public institution to protect “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.”

Both approaches have fallen on deaf ears.

For free speech purists, it might be comforting to think the protesters — perhaps 500 strong — represented a fringe group (who were themselves, after all, exercising their right to free speech). But if that’s true, it’s a well-connected fringe. Two arch-progressive city councillors, Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam, have a motion before Toronto city council on Tuesday asking staff to recommend “strengthening” the library’s room rental policies. Toronto Pride has threatened “consequences to our relationship” — presumably excommunication, which was the Vancouver Public Library’s fate after allowing Murphy to speak on its premises.

To his everlasting shame, even ostensibly conservative Mayor John Tory got in on the act.

“There are thousands of places this event could be held in Toronto other than the public library,” he said in a statement. “When it comes to public buildings, I believe we should hold ourselves to the highest standard.”

That’s completely backwards. “The library is acting as a part of government,” said Bruce Ryder, a constitutional law professor at Osgoode Hall who helped the library update its room rental policies two years ago, after a similar controversy. It thus has a higher bar to clear — not lower — if it wants to deny a booking. “If this was private space, the protection of freedom of expression wouldn’t apply,” said Ryder.

Is Murphy a hateful transphobe? Beats me. I’m no expert on the subject. But, frankly, I don’t want anyone else making that decision for me.

On Twitter, Selley further notes that Toronto’s Glad Day bookstore, famously a victim of capricious and arbitrary government censorship, is now advocating for capricious and arbitrary government censorship.

Social-media-fueled activists aren’t yet marching into libraries, seizing books they find offensive, and destroying them. Maybe they still have enough self-awareness to realize who else tends to do that kind of thing.

But give it just a few more years. If certain ideas are too offensive to be expressed in person at the library, what is the argument for allowing offensive ideas in books to remain on the shelves?

Dance for your Renminbi, NBA

In contrast to the Kaepernick-free NFL, the National Basketball Association and its players are outspoken about pressing social issues. Unless it’s about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, when it breaks like a cheap toy purchased on AliExpress.

The controversy erupted after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, one of the most popular U.S. basketball teams in China, appeared to support Hong Kong demonstrators in a tweet late Friday. While the message was deleted and both Morey and the National Basketball Association tried to distance themselves from it, the damage reverberated across both China and the U.S.

[…]

The NBA tried to limit the damage, saying in a statement that Morey’s comments were “regrettable.”

“We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together,” the NBA said.

In the Chinese version of the statement, it added a further comment: “We are deeply disappointed about Morey’s inappropriate comment and he undoubtedly has hurt Chinese fans’ feelings severely.”

The NBA’s response echoed the cautious approach other companies have been taking in an effort not to offend China, but it immediately generated protests from U.S. politicians.

Cruz, a Texas Republican and longtime Rockets fan, tweeted that the NBA “is shamefully retreating” and said he was “proud” to see Morey’s original comment. Both Democratic presidential candidates from Texas also blasted the NBA, with Beto O’Rourke calling the apology “an embarrassment” and Julian Castro saying the U.S. can’t allow American citizens “to be bullied by an authoritarian government.”

Stand by for the inevitable Trump tweet about this, even though he’s done his own rolling over for China behind closed doors.

Flashback: Canada’s Cirque du Soleil boycotted North Carolina because of its homophobic “bathroom bill,” but kept performing in Russia and Dubai.

Chinese democracy endorsed

Between Rudy Giuliani’s babbling idiocy, Bill de Blasio running for President despite lower approval ratings than Trump in his deeply Democratic home state , and now this, I can only conclude that being mayor of New York City inevitably fries your brain.

China is literally carrying out a genocide at the moment, but they aren’t a dictatorship because they’re moving their coal-fired power plants further away from the cities or something.

There was a time not too long ago when I actually wanted Bloomberg to run for President of the United States. I knew he was a nanny-stater, but at least a competent nanny-stater. But this goes far beyond regulating the size of soft drinks you can buy.

The office of President is far too important and powerful to be occupied by someone who would praise China’s political system.

Oh, right.

Trudeau’s Arabian Nightmare

I was even more right-wing in 2001 than I am now, and even then I knew wearing blackface was horribly racist. (I still remembered the very special “Gimme a Break!” episode about it from when I was a kid.) Our woke Prime Minister, on the other hand, had no idea.

To be fair, he was just a callow youth of (checks notes) 29 years old.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.

[…]

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”

Trudeau said he wore “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.

The temptation to hold Trudeau to his own side’s extremely woke standards, and demand that his political career come to an end over this, is overwhelming. And yet, I think the better course of action for Andrew Scheer (who hasn’t weighed in yet, as of this posting) would be to take the high road.

Scheer didn’t step aside after his own 2005 comments attacking same-sex marriage came to light, and he should say Trudeau doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this. His policies and performance in office, sure, but not something stupid he did 18 years ago.

Conservatives should hold to the principle that people shouldn’t be judged, cancelled and denied a chance at redemption because of one mistake, and let the voters think about whether Liberals would do the same. Frankly, seeing Trudeau’s supporters make excuses for this is far more devastating than anything Scheer could say about it.

If everyone with skeletons in their closet was forced out of politics, we’d have no politicians left.

But there would be bad things about that, too.

Incoming!

Yes, some people have predicted twenty of the last three recessions. But CNBC has a long list of warning signs:

Perhaps the most talked about recession indicator is the inverted yield curve.

Amid falling interest rates in the broader U.S. bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has fallen below the 2-year yield several times since Aug. 14. In a healthy market, long-term bonds carry a higher interest rate than short-term bonds. When short-term bonds deliver a higher yield, it’s a called an inversion of the yield curve. The bond market phenomenon is historically a trusty signal of an eventual recession: It has preceded the seven last recessions. A recession occurs about 22 months after an inversion on average, according to Credit Suisse.

[…]

Gross domestic product in the U.S. is slowing. The economy expanded by 2% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said in its second reading of GDP on Thursday.

Two percent is the lowest growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2018 and down from 3% growth in the first three months of this year.

[…]

U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August. The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July.

The reading is below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction.

Because Donald Trump lives rent-free in our heads now, most people are wondering about whether the recession will start in time to sink his already shaky re-election chances. But I’m wondering how it will affect politics on this side of the border.

A recession will not start in time for the next federal election, but there’s a good chance we’ll be in one not long afterward. And, fairly or not, whoever’s in charge will take the blame for it.

In other words, whoever wins the federal election in 2019 may come to regret it in 2023. Or sooner, if – as looks increasingly likely – we have a minority government.

A very British witch-hunt

The headline of this jaw-dropping Washington Post story says it all: “A child advocate’s tale of a murderous pedophile ring launched a $2.5 million probe. It found he was the pedophile.”

When he was a boy, Nick told police and the press, he was “handed over” by his abusive stepfather to a powerful group of men who repeatedly raped, tortured and traumatized him and countless other boys for life. Some of the most powerful men in British Parliament and the military — including the former prime minister and chief of the armed forces — were part of the ominous gang, operating from 1975 to 1984, Nick remembered. How could he forget? he said.

They would send cars to pick up Nick and the other boys at random locations — the train station, a street corner — and take them to luxurious apartments and hotels all over London. There, one by one, or sometimes all at once, the boys would endure unthinkable sexual abuse and torture, sometimes so brutal that the beatings resulted in young boys’ deaths, Nick said. He said he witnessed the murders of three boys, two of whom he claimed were killed for sexual pleasure by a Conservative member of Parliament at the time.

The lurid tale shocked the nation, launching an enormous investigation by the United Kingdom’s largest police agency. In December 2014, a homicide detective for the Metropolitan Police Service described Nick’s allegations as “credible and true” and begged any other victims to come forward. Nick appealed to the public too, appearing in videotaped interviews as a black silhouette with a disguised voice, saying to the other abused boys he hoped were listening, “It’s important that they come forward too. . . . It’s something that stays with you forever.”

But month after month — as the sensational allegations remained under investigation by police, as the accused high-ranking former government officials watched their reputations disintegrate into scandalous tabloid fare — no other boys came forward. In fact, nobody did.

For years, the public would have no idea who “Nick” was — until finally, after a 12-week trial that ended this week, the full picture has emerged. Nick was Carl Beech, a fabulist who invented the entire story, a jury concluded on Monday — and a pedophile masquerading as a child sex abuse advocate and charity volunteer, managing to fool police and captivate Britain.

It’s a lot like “Satanic Ritual Abuse” hysteria that gripped the United States in the eighties, except that one staggeringly depraved individual started the whole thing.

Just in case you weren’t convinced that absolute evil exists in human form:

When [Beech] was charged with possessing child porn, the Guardian reported, he at first tried to frame his teenage son, pleading not guilty.

Some days it’s hard to be opposed to capital punishment.

The coming Epstein apocalypse

This week, hundreds of pages of documents related to a civil suit against Epstein may be released – and many of his rich, famous and powerful enablers named.

…A judge could decide on July 24 how and when to unseal a trove of documents — some 2,000 pages worth — in connection with a civil lawsuit filed by an Epstein accuser against his one-time companion Ghislaine Maxwell. The papers may reveal allegations of sexual abuse involving people described in court filings as “prominent individuals.”

That civil suit and its remnants have been in the courts for four years. But, in a startling coincidence of timing, an appeals panel ruled just three days before the wealthy financier was taken into custody on July 6 that the documents should be unsealed. The long-running Epstein saga entered a new chapter.

“It’s what everyone is betting — that it’s going to get interesting,” said an investment banker who asked not to be identified. “Like the rest of New York, I’m waiting.”

[…]

The civil proceeding involving the sealed documents is related to a defamation suit filed in 2015. The plaintiff was Virginia Giuffre, a Floridian who claimed Epstein sexually abused her for two years starting in 2000, when she was 16, and that Maxwell participated. Giuffre sued after Maxwell publicly called her a liar. The documents in question were filed in connection with a summary-judgment motion in the case, which was settled.

Giuffre first accused Epstein in December 2014 when she attempted to join a suit by two other of his accusers who sought to nullify the federal non-prosecution agreement in Florida. In her request, Giuffre included descriptions of abuse by Epstein and other prominent individuals “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders,” the three-member appeals court panel said in ordering the unsealing.

Maxwell wants the full appeals court to reconsider the unsealing order. “The media have shown an insatiable appetite for any shred of information/speculation to publish and broadcast since Mr. Epstein’s arrest,” Maxwell said, and that interest could result in “due process concerns” for Epstein and other potential prosecution targets and witnesses.

Even if the materials remain sealed, we already know about many of the people in Epstein’s circle, including Presidents Trump and Clinton and even Prince Andrew. This New York Times story lists many more, including some you may not have expected. (Chelsea Handler?)