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?)

The Trumpissist’s Prayer

I’ve seen several variations on the “Narcissist’s Prayer,” but it basically goes like this:

That didn’t happen.

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

You deserved it.

I suspect that’s what Jonathan Last, whose daily newsletter The Triad is an essential read, had in mind when he wrote about how Trump and his supporters rationalize what he has unleashed:

The perfect spin cycle for Trump and his media quislings:

Of course he didn’t mean that.

You can’t prove he meant it.

It’s totally reasonable, why are you carrying on about it?

It actually means this other thing why are you stupid and dishonest?

You’re damn right he meant that first thing. MAGA, bitches!

They do this over and over. With Charlottesville. With “fire and fury.” With the Access Hollywood tape. With the Mueller report. With Trump’s saying that George W. Bush committed treason and that Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK.

At this point, there aren’t even any questions to be asked, except for this:

Where is the country supposed to go from here?

Does anyone believe this is going to get better before Election Day, 2020?

Update: see the Narcissist’s Prayer, above:

President Donald on Thursday disavowed the “send her back” chant that broke out at his rally on Wednesday night.

“I was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” Trump said to reporters about the chant, which began after the president again went after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as part of his ongoing attack on four progressive freshman congresswomen.

This is n̶o̶t̶ now normal

What a difference three years in power makes:

When a tape surfaced in 2016 of Trump boasting about grabbing women’s genitals, top Republican officials briefly pulled their endorsements, disinvited him from events and even sought to remove him from the ticket.

When, as president, Trump equivocated on condemning white supremacists in a deadly Virginia rally, top business leaders disbanded White House advisory boards in protest.

But on Monday, a day after Trump posted tweets promoting the racist trope that four minority congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of ancestry, the president waltzed onto the South Lawn of the White House with the confidence of a man fully supported by his party and by much of the corporate world that had once kept him at arm’s length.

[…]

Even as a few Republican lawmakers spoke out against Trump’s language, with some specifically calling it racist, most stayed quiet or sought to soften their admonishment of the president by mixing it with criticism of the women he attacked.

“They’re just terrified of crossing swords with Trump, and they stay mute even when the president unleashes racist tirades,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has been critical of Trump. “Republican leaders are now culpable for encouraging this kind of rank bigotry. By not speaking out, by staying mum, they are greenlighting hate rhetoric.”

Trump is Trump. The man cannot help being an ignorant, racist oaf any more than the scorpion can resist stinging the frog.

But his enablers? They know better. And years from now, when they’re saying how awful they knew Trump was all along, don’t let them forget it.

The secrets of Jeffrey Epstein’s island

This is the kind of thing Alex Jones or David Icke would have rejected as too ridiculous and sinister:

When INSIDER consulted James Both, a contractor and engineer based in Chicago, he first pointed to the wooden door. “It’s styled like what you might see on a castle, with what appears to be a reinforcing lock bar across the face,” he said. “What makes it peculiar is that if you wanted to keep people out, the bar would be placed inside the building, [but the] locking bar appears to be placed on the outside … as if it were intended to lock people in.”

By the way, former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy thinks Epstein’s 2009 deal, negotiated with now-former Trump cabinet secretary Alex Acosta, will protect Epstein from federal prosecution this time around. Have a nice day.

I believe Tom Arnold

The guy who was once married to Roseanne Barr and was surprisingly good in True Lies says he’s heard tapes of the President using racist slurs while filming his reality show:

This week, Arnold went a step further, repeating his claim (this time to widespread media attention—try googling it) that he has seen a secret “outtakes” reel made by Apprentice staff showing the now Republican president-elect saying “every racist thing ever,” and then some.

“I have the outtakes to The Apprentice where he says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever,” Arnold told Seattle radio station KIRO. “It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children.”

What made me think about that years-old story today? Oh, nothing…

President Donald Trump referenced Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in a series of posts that literally urged the freshman congresswoman to go back to Africa.

Side note: I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to 1999 and tell people, “Tom Arnold is looking for tapes of President Trump saying the N-word on his reality show.”

The Hollywood client from Hell

This will be surprising to anyone who’s not familiar with Harvey Weinstein:

Harvey Weinstein’s legal “dream team” for his much-anticipated sexual assault case suffered another blow Thursday when lawyer Jose Baez was granted permission to withdraw from the case.

[…]

People familiar with the situation tell The Daily Beast that Baez, who’s previously represented high-profile clients like Casey Anthony, is exiting due to clashes over legal tactics with the former Hollywood mogul.  

“He thinks he’s making a movie,” said a person familiar with the case. “He’s just trying to put together the perfect cast and it’s not working. It’s not a movie. He is impossible to work with,” the person said. 

The person familiar with the matter said Weinstein was keen to try the case in the court of public opinion—a strategy Brafman had earlier rejected.

“Ben wants to do everything in the courtroom and that’s the opposite of Weinstein, who wants the case tried in the court of public opinion and not a court of law,” a source previously told The Daily Beast. 

Flashback to 1999, when the short-lived (and awesome) Fox series Action had lecherous, creepy characters based on the Weinstein brothers. For all their crocodile #MeToo tears now, everyone in Hollywood knew what this creep was up to.

When law school classmates attack

In a rare example of Twitter being used for good instead of evil, Ken “Popehat” White has some very serious questions for his former classmate Alex Acosta about Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart deal:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The entire thread can be viewed here. And he has even more questions today.

“Lying-in expenses”

While a white-hot debate over abortion engulfs the United States and threatens to spill over into Canada, this Washington Post column by law professor Carliss Chatman purports to take the anti-abortion position to its logical conclusion:

…When a state grants full personhood to a fetus, should they not apply equally?

For example, should child support start at conception? Every state permits the custodial parent — who has primary physical custody of the child and is primarily responsible for his or her day-to-day care — to receive child support from the noncustodial parent. Since a fetus resides in its mother, and receives all nutrition and care from its mother’s body, the mother should be eligible for child support as soon as the fetus is declared a person — at conception in Alabama, at six weeks in states that declare personhood at a fetal heartbeat, at eight weeks in Missouri, which was on the way to passing its law on Friday, but at birth in states that have not banned abortion.

Interestingly, the Parenting and Support Act in Nova Scotia does allow for child support once a child has been conceived – sort of.

Section 11(1)(a) allows an expectant mother to apply for a contribution toward “lying-in expenses” even before the child is born. The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia defines such expenses as follows:

…These expenses are meant to contribute to the reasonable costs that a woman has while pregnant to carry the baby and prepare for the birth of the baby. These costs usually include things like maternity vitamins, maternity clothes and baby-related items, like a crib, stroller, or car seat. They can also include maintenance of the mother during the pregnancy and expenses related to the birth of the child.

An unmarried woman may ask to have lying-in expenses paid as part of a child support application to the court. A judge can order the mother or the possible father, or both of them, to pay certain amounts toward these expenses. The costs have to be proven (for example, by giving receipts or confirmation of costs) and they have to be reasonable and necessary.

Applications for lying-in expenses can be made during the pregnancy, or after the birth of the child. Often, the application is made after the child is born, and combined with the application for child support , to make things easier (making one application instead of two).

If the application is made before the child is born, the applicant mother must provide confirmation that she is in fact pregnant:

In practice, lying-in expenses are rarely sought. The most recent Nova Scotia decision on the CanLII case-law database in which they were awarded is from 2010. The issue came up in a 2017 case, but they weren’t ordered, at least in part because of the applicant’s tardiness in raising the issue.

In twenty years of practicing family law, I’ve only worked on a handful of cases where lying-in expenses are an issue, and never one where the application was commenced before the birth of the child. But the option is there.

Capitulation at Harvard

Intersectionality or the rule of law. Pick one.

Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy, in the New York Times, on the treatment of his colleague Ronald Sullivan:

I have been a professor at Harvard University for 34 years. In that time, the school has made some mistakes. But it has never so thoroughly embarrassed itself as it did this past weekend. At the center of the controversy is Ronald Sullivan, a law professor who ran afoul of student activists enraged that he was willing to represent Harvey Weinstein.

[…]

…On Saturday, Dean Khurana announced that Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Robinson would no longer be deans of the college, citing their “ineffective” efforts to improve “the climate” at Winthrop.

Although Dean Khurana declared that his decision was “informed by a number of considerations,” he said nothing in his announcement about the issue that lay at the heart of the controversy: the claim that Mr. Sullivan’s representation of Mr. Weinstein was in and of itself inconsistent with his role as a faculty dean. No wonder the students who campaigned for his dismissal on that basis celebrated the administration’s action.

Harvard College appears to have ratified the proposition that it is inappropriate for a faculty dean to defend a person reviled by a substantial number of students — a position that would disqualify a long list of stalwart defenders of civil liberties and civil rights, including Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall.

Student opposition to Mr. Sullivan has hinged on the idea of safety — that they would not feel safe confiding in Mr. Sullivan about matters having to do with sexual harassment or assault given his willingness to serve as a lawyer for Mr. Weinstein. Let’s assume the good faith of such declarations (though some are likely mere parroting). Even still, they should not be accepted simply because they represent sincere beliefs or feelings.

Suppose atheist students claimed that they did not feel “safe” confiding in a faculty dean who was an outspoken Christian or if conservative students claimed that they did not feel “safe” confiding in a faculty dean who was a prominent leftist. One would hope that university officials would say more than that they “take seriously” the concerns raised and fears expressed. One would hope that they would say that Harvard University defends — broadly — the right of people to express themselves aesthetically, ideologically, intellectually and professionally. One would hope that they would say that the acceptability of a faculty dean must rest upon the way in which he meets his duties, not on his personal beliefs or professional associations. One would hope, in short, that Harvard would seek to educate its students and not simply defer to vague apprehensions or pander to the imperatives of misguided rage.

Now, of course, Harvard authorities are dredging up various supposed delinquencies on Mr. Sullivan’s part. An exposé in The Harvard Crimson refers to allegations that he and his wife were highhanded in their dealings with the staff at Winthrop House. No one is perfect; perhaps there is something to these claims.

But these dissatisfactions, if relevant at all, were not what provoked the student protests that led to Mr. Sullivan’s ouster. The central force animating the drama has been student anger at anyone daring to breach the wall of ostracism surrounding Mr. Weinstein, even for the limited purpose of extending him legal representation. They want to make him, a person still clothed with the presumption of innocence, more of an untouchable before trial than those who have been convicted of a crime. There was no publicized protest at Winthrop House when Mr. Sullivan successfully represented a convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star, who was acquitted of a separate double murder before killing himself in prison.

Harvard officials are certainly capable of withstanding student pressure. This time, though, they don’t want to. …

Some perspective: the most significant threat to the rule of law in America comes from the would-be authoritarian in the White House. But the Sullivan witch-hunt is just the latest example of how the rule of law is being assaulted from the other side.

Flashback: law students at the City University of New York screaming “Fuck the Law!” at a visiting professor they didn’t agree with.