Tag Archives: law

Things are coming along (the end of the world, that is).

As you can see, work on the ‘I Spy’ book is well on its way. This one is based on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It also recounts the story of “The Twa Sisters,” an early murder ballad, a subgenre of music that fascinates me simply because it exists. Why do we have so many songs about dead women?!

There’s not much I could say that hasn’t already been said about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. God bless her soul. I’m Canadian, but I’m aware of how much of an impact she’s had on women’s rights in the United States. There’s also not much I can that’s hasn’t already been said about Republicans in the US Senate trying to quickly fill her seat in less than six weeks after they delayed for nine months and didn’t even bother having a hearing to consider President Barrack Obama’s nominee back in 2016. They’re going to try to put a lifetime appointed judge to heavily lean the courts into the conservatives’ favor for decades to come. They’ll do it before the election; and even if Trump loses, they can still do it during the lameduck session after the election. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order. But what I find more galling is the weakness that the Democrats are demonstrating at the moment.

There are several ways Democrats can delay the Republican-led US Senate from confirming whichever right wing zealot Trump nominates to replace the iconic titan that was Justice Ginsburg. It is amazing that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with ABC, already gave up on one of the most reasonable things the Democrats can do, withhold budget negotiations and shutdown the government. No one wants to shutdown the government. Millions of people could potentially be hurt by such action, but the last time I checked, the government was already shutdown twice during Trump’s term, once over immigration and another over border wall funding. Essentially stealing the Supreme Court for the Republicans is more than enough reason to shutdown the government. A right wing court could strip the rights of workers, voters, unions, and women. It would be a gift to corporate interests as well as religious zealots.

Democrats could also impeach Trump a second time, not that there’s a lack of reason to do so. There’s campaign finance violations, violating the Hatch Act, conspiracy to corrupt the upcoming 2020 elections, advocating political violence, abuse of power by pardoning his crony Roger Stone, attacking the free press, or deadly incompetence in the face of the coronavirus. Putting up articles of impeachment would force the Republican-led Senate to take it on before any other business.

Other than these, they can also eliminate the filibuster or expand the Supreme Court to include more judges. Heck, appoint Hilary Clinton as a Supreme Court judge. She’s an excellent lawyer outside of her political career. That would drive the conservatives nuts, especially the Q-Anon types who believe she’s part of a pedophile Satan-worshiping cabal.

But so far, the only strong voice I hear from the Democrats comes from AOC who says that the death of Ginsburg should be radicalizing people at the moment. The day Justice Ginsburg died, I read Sen. Chuck Schumer “calls on Sen. Mitch McConnell” to withhold appointing her replacement. “Calls on?” He should be demanding it! Then we have Nancy Pelosi not only giving up one of her cards on a televised interview, she almost skips the problem as well as her active role in the process and just goes to the viewers and urges them to vote. Yes, people will vote. In the meantime, the Democrats don’t do anything about the Republicans stealing another Supreme Court seat. It is absolute weakness. It’s great to see tributes online and on television about the impact Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on the judiciary and the lives of ordinary women, but tributes are a dime a dozen. That’s Instagram nonsense that doesn’t cost any political capital. What we have right now is abject weakness after the loss of someone so strong and courageous. Shame on the Democrats.

Continuing with politics, this time in Canada, RIP former Prime Minister John Turner. He only served for 80 days but he was still our leader for a time. He served right after the first Trudeau and was followed by Mulroney who famously instituted Canada’s Goods and Services Tax in the 90s. I didn’t know this, but John Turner became Prime Minister despite being born outside of Canada. Yes, us Canadians don’t limit our highest leadership exclusively to native-born Canadians.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Internet Criming

Saint

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, also known as CDA 230, protects Web sites like Facebook or Twitter from liabilities which may be imposed due to third-party contents. So if a Facebook user promoted hate speech or whatever, Facebook as a company will not be held liable for promoting the hate speech, only the one who posted it is liable for it. Simply put, websites are not responsible if their users violate criminal or property law.

A law signed by Donald Trump two years ago poked holes into the protection CDA 230 provides. FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act) create an exception to CDA 230. Web sites are now liable for prosecution should their users promote sexual services. Advocates of the law have always looked at the worst case scenarios to push the law through, child sexual trafficking, but it ignores the fact that many sexual workers freely operate on the Internet, seeing it as a more secure avenue to ply their trade instead of going underground or on the street.

FOSTA and SESTA has not made the Internet safer for children. The laws simply haven’t. Just recently, a group of Korean teenagers were arrested for operating a Web site that trades, promotes, manufactures, and distributes child pornography. They were able to function for a time even with the laws already in effect. And they were the ones that were caught. Who knows if there are other operators out there currently distributing and manufacturing illegal material? The point is, the laws have just made it more complicated to operate such sites, but it hasn’t eliminated them. If anything, it just made sex work less safe for those who are willingly working in the sex industry. See, pedophilia and child pornography are already crimes. FOSTA and SESTA just makes criminals out of Web site operators and sex workers who have nothing to do with endangering minors. And really, if legislators are really serious about stopping criminals, they would criminalize bitcoins and all forms of cryptocurrency altogether. But you know they won’t.

But this rant is not about FOSTA and SESTA. It is about Facebook. I was just watching Joe Scarborough (I know, I know) rant about how Facebook is openly profiting from hate groups, harassment, and undermining democracy. Mark Zuckerberg does not care that his Web site has become an open market for false information. They were warned prior to the 2016 elections that their site was going to be used to undermine the elections and they were more upset at the people who raised the alarm. Fast forward to 2020, and Facebook is pushing ads on sites that push conspiracy theories and thinly-veiled (if at all) bigotry.

FOSTA and SESTA pierced CDA 230 in order to ineffectively protect children. It is very difficult to go against such legislation, because really, who isn’t against child sex crimes? But if anything was to greater than the love for freedom of speech, it’s the discomfort of people towards sex. This, I believe, is why FOSTA and SESTA were able to pass and why craigslist and backpage.com are no longer able to have people advertising sexual services. It’s not about protecting children. You can talk freely all you want, but once it’s about sex, then legislators are more willing to clamp down on your rights.

So many things that Facebook is allowed to do under the protection of CDA 230 is openly harming people including children. Disinformation over vaccines and COVID-19 is endangering the lives of people. Freely allowing hate groups to operate on the site has led to not only harmful government actions like caging migrant children, but also a rise in hate crimes. Child sexual abuse is bad, but it’s not a suffering Olympics. Other forms of suffering can be just as bad and they are allowed to continue simply because they don’t have the ickiness of sex. One could argue that profiting from undermining democracy is treasonous and is right up there with inadvertently promoting pedophilia.

So what am I saying other than Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are garbage and that FOSTA and SESTA are dangerous pieces of law? I’m saying if legislators could find limitations to the umbrella of protection that CDA 230 provides, they should be able to do so with other offenses. Either that, or just go back to 2016 and make the Internet safer for sex workers. I’m also saying Mark Zuckerberg is a soulless creature that would gladly sell out his country and his neighbors to make a dollar. He won’t even police his own Web site. No patriots exist in the Facebook executive board. If you’re not using Facebook solely to for its Messenger app (because your relatives simply won’t get off it and find alternatives to messaging you), you should delete it. It would be better for you and for everyone. Go read a real newspaper.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Hobbyist

Hands Up

I don’t mind when celebrities later on in their career fancy themselves as artists and try to take up painting or photography. What gets to me is when they rely more on their celebrity status and the art they create and sell is clearly BS. I remember Richard Grieco, an actor who was famous in the 80s, had an art show with works clearly inspired if not poor copies of Pollock’s work. When asked about Pollock, he denied ever being inspired by him. Ugh. What a hack! Shows like these with garbage art amount to nothing more than expensive autograph sales.

Now back to 2016, there’s a story about a Korean singer-turned-artist who was charged with fraud. Cho Youngnam was “indicted of fraudulently selling artwork with his signature on it after having other people create most of the work and “doing only a small portion himself.” He was accused of paying a man surnamed Song to paint 21 pieces from 2011 to 2015, 17 of which he sold for a total of 153 million won ($126,000).

Cho claimed that it was common in the art world to have artists hire assistants to create most of the work. Initially, the court found that it was fraudulent for Cho not to divulge that his paintings were mostly done by his assistant. But then a higher court reversed the decision and proclaimed that buyers don’t need to know that the works were made with the assistance of another person, and the fact that there was an assistant was not an essential information in the sale.

A public plea session was held and it’s upsetting to hear Cho’s side argue that it’s customary for artists to have assistants do most of the work. For one, it’s not common. Second, their argument showed a lack of knowledge of art history or perhaps relied on the general public’s lack of knowledge of art history.

They cited artist Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ which was a simple store-bought urinal. The only thing the artist contributed was it’s positioning and the fact that Duchamp signed it. Duchamp was a pioneer of the Dada movement which used found objects in creating art. It was no secret that he was using objects he didn’t manufacture himself. Instead, he manipulated them and gave them new forms. ‘Fountain’ was created as a form of mockery of the Society of Independent Artist’s rule which accepted all works of art as long as the artist paid a fee. And honestly, looking at the number of pay-to-play galleries in Seoul. “Fountain” would serve as a biting critic of how the art world is, particularly in deciding who gets to have a show or not.

Cho was not making any statement regarding the material nor the process of his work. The fact that 90% of the work was done by a more skilled assistant was not part the work’s story. If Duchamp acted like Cho, Duchamp would have pretended to have moulded the urinal himself. It was a ridiculous comparison. If Cho wants to position himself as someone who thinks up concepts and hires other artists to fulfill his vision, he could very well have done that. Doris Salcedo is a famous installation artist who uses furniture. She famously stacked hundreds of chairs in an alley in her piece ‘Istanbul.’ She didn’t build all of the furniture herself, nor did she stack all of the chairs by her lonesome. Cho could’ve started out by doing the same. Instead, he marketed himself as a singer who found he had talent painting. He didn’t market himself as a singer who had ideas for paintings other more talented people could paint.

I grant that artists will have assistants and apprentices. One of my favorite sculptors is Camille Claudel, who was the student, mistress, and assistant to Rodin. Some may speculate that some of Rodin’s famous works have Claudel’s hand in them, but it is undeniable that even before Caludel, Rodin was already a known genius. Also, both artists shone as separate great artists, though Rodin’s shadow loomed large over Claudel. Cho is no Rodin. He is a rich singer who found a hobby.

I haven’t read the book in the article, Aesthetics Scandal, but I want to look at the pull quote, “The manner of conduct that the Korean art world showed during the process was regrettable. They provided the wrong information to the judiciaries for the first hearing. Saying that physical execution is crucial to art, that authorship lies in the skills of the execution, that fine art does not use assistants, that one is only allowed to use an assistant when the process of the work takes the theme as a meta experiment […] All pieces of wrong information that stemmed from a lack of understanding of contemporary art were used as evidence for the first court’s ruling. The art world is in need of self-reflection and introspection.”

I agree, there is so much nuance to art that it is unwise to say make sweeping rules regarding authorship. However, when it comes to law, defining fraud is much clearer. In Canada, “Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence… defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service” commits fraud. How were the pieces sold? What was Cho’s compelling story regarding finding a new passion in visual art? Did he say he discovered he had a knack for painting of did he say he had a knack for coming up with ideas for his assistant to paint? Isn’t this just a visual arts version of Millie Vanilli? Someone else sang and recorded the songs, while two guys lip-synced and danced to them. For Cho, someone else did most of the hard work, while he painted a few corners and acted like an artist.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hijacking the #MeToo Movement

Good Doctor

At 4:00 am, a couple is having drinks in a bar in Seoul. The franchise is known for its cheap drinks, thus it gets really crowded and tables are often close to each other. Because of this, and because it’s typical of people when they consume alcohol, people tend to be quite loud when they speak.  The couple gets harassed by a neighboring table. They were two women who for some reason started to harass the table. According to the couple, the two women have been exceptionally loud prior to them trying to ruin their neighbor’s evening. The couple decided to leave.

Not long after the couple left, a neighboring table of four men made comments at the two women. The group claims that they asked the women to quiet down and stop harassing other people. One of the women said that at some point, one of the men began filming them. The two women didn’t take this lightly and started arguing with the men.

The argument spilled outside when it got physical. Ultimately, it resulted in the two women getting seriously beaten and the police getting called. Everyone was arrested and now we have two conflicting stories and some people trying to tie the incident with feminism and the #MeToo movement.

I don’t care so much about the insults or the women’s claims that the men insulted them for them for not looking feminine. It was 4:00 am, people were drunk, and I am sure the two women must have hurled equally vile insults at the men. The women claimed that the men attacked them first, however, security camera footage proved that the women were the first to attack the men. I was never on their side, being obnoxious bar patrons, but this puts them in legal jeopardy and provides defense for the men. The men were trying to diffuse the initial situation (being good Samaritans), were initially attacked, and have a good argument for self-defense. The women were proven to have initiated the attack and are bad actors, providing false statements.

Korea doesn’t have a very good record when it comes to self-defense. Usually it is often the one who is most injured that gets compensation, which makes it wise for people to just walk away from a confrontation even after they have been physically assaulted (grabbed, touched, lightly hit) or threatened. There are self-defense laws, but in the country, it is often countered by laws over excessive force. I believe that at least one of the women thought that she could get away with physically assaulting a man and not have any repercussion due to the tendency of people to avoid physical confrontation and the unwillingness of most men to physically confront women. I’m in no way an MRA apologist, but I believe some women DO goad men into what they believe is an unwinnable trap, where men are either cowards for walking away or are monsters for hitting a woman. I think that these two women thought they could “win” the evening or satiate their bruised egos by putting at least one of the men into this trap.

Unfortunately for the men, it doesn’t look good that there are four of them and only two women. The excessive force argument is also pretty convincing. Most people could imagine four men easily defusing the situation with not as much injury. But if you follow that idea a bit further, the question becomes: what is the reasonable amount of injury is enough to diffuse an attack from a drunk and violent woman? You inevitably come to another trap. Are the courts and society at large willing to say that it is reasonable to lay a hand on a woman? In this day and age of feminism, equality, and the #MeToo movement, that would seem like a bridge too far.

It goes without saying however: it is never good to hit women! It is never good to hit people!

But in my opinion, allowing women the defense of being the weaker sex is in itself sexism. The women were proven violent instigators and they should be seen as that in the eyes of the law. The men’s actions don’t exist in a vacuum, and it should be seen as a separate case. The men would appear to be excessive in that early morning brawl, but that doesn’t give the women excuse for their earlier action. The problem is one of the women already started an online petition calling for an end to hatred against women. “The women were beaten up just because they wore no makeup and had short hair.” She is trying to make the case about men hating women instead of men hating obnoxious bar patrons who harass and physically assault other customers. And if they’re claim that men attacked them because they didn’t look attractive enough. Wouldn’t there be more evidence of this behavior? Perhaps other victims of this “gang’s” misogynist attacks, be it physical or verbal?  Or maybe other customers in the bar noting that the men were criticizing patrons for their looks? So far there’s been none. Just witnesses corroborating the men’s accounts and video footage showing that the women attacked first. Unfortunately, it would appear the women already have sizeable support on the Internet, turning the whole thing into a nationwide gender debate.

True sexism and misogyny is assigning the women weakness and freedom to harass other customers due their weakness. Being a woman does not allow anyone to lay a hand on a stranger free from consequences despite that stranger hurling insults. True sexism and misogyny is allowing incidents like this to be under the umbrella of feminism and the #MeToo movement when it has nothing to do with the movement. I’m a visible minority living in South Korea. If I initiated a physical altercation with two people and lost, I cannot immediately cry racism. It would be an insult to genuine victims of racism as well as a disservice to the fight against prejudice if other people took me seriously.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Wonderful Canada and Much-Needed Marijuana Legalization

Triangle Man

Congratulations to Canada for being sensible enough to finally end senseless marijuana prohibition. Most people who have had experience smoking marijuana know that it is much less dangerous compared to drinking alcohol. I remember back in university, one of my first presentations in sociology class was about the how smoking marijuana and the US’ war on drugs have created this unjust more against marijuana despite the fact that alcohol, which is completely legal, can cause aggression and is involved in roughly half of all murders, rapes, and assaults. Compare that to marijuana. When was the last time you saw an aggressive person high on marijuana? It can cause a bit of paranoia, of course, but more often than not, its sedative effect is the most common experience.

I think most people who want access to marijuana in Canada already had access to it prior to legalization. It’s not that difficult finding marijuana in Canada. I remember back in university, marijuana tends to find you instead. The problem with marijuana is its legal consequences and how that affects people. Fortunately, Canada is planning to release and perhaps clear the records of felons caught with a certain amount of cannabis. However for some, it may be too late already.

People sometimes say that marijuana is a gateway drug. You start with marijuana and you move on to more potent illegal drugs. However, I saw how the prosecution of marijuana possession is the gateway to more serious crimes. One of my best friends in school tried selling and even growing marijuana when we were in high school. I remember he even asked me for advice for effective growing methods, but what do I know? Anyway, he was caught with possession or with possession with intent to sell and was sent to juvenile detention. I was already in university at the time and was spending time with a different circle of friends. I did hear from him and about him occasionally and learned that he later got involved with harder drugs, manufacturing methamphetamines, and even breaking and entering. The last time I saw him, he was out in a rough part of town, looking worse for the wear.

Even with marijuana being legalized, it would have still been illegal for him to be possessing drugs at such a young age, but both the stigma and the allure won’t be there since the drug would be legal. It would almost be akin to hiding a pack of cigarettes. But I believe his detention got him in the wrong path, not the drugs itself. He wasn’t poor back then or anything. He was raised in a middle-class household with both parents. It was simply the allure of drugs that got him in. Compare that to the rather mundane allure of legal cigarettes and alcohol to young teens.

And that’s just with teens. I know someone with a suspended sentence for possession of marijuana, not for recreational use but for her cancer-stricken husband’s medical use. With legalization, there would be less stigma and no more need for unintended grief for those who need the drug. It’s good to have a bit more sensibility in the current world where more and more things seem to stop making sense as the days go by.

Well, hopefully with legalization and taxation, there will be a growth in industry and government revenue across Canada. This will also hurt gangs and the illegal drug trade since one of their cash crops has now effectively become public domain. And with the wide availability and the proper monitoring by the government, hopefully people would not have any need to find and experiment with stronger drugs. If anything, I expect Canada to become more of an attraction to our southern neighbors. I remember occasionally finding young American crossing the border on their past their 18th birthday in order to legally drink alcohol, party in bars, visit strip clubs, and take advantage of the relatively low Canadian currency. If cities and the government play their cards right, we might just become North America’s Netherlands.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So Much for Justice

Narcissus

Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be disqualified simply for the fact that he can’t even appear intelligent in hiding his opinions. He repeatedly excused himself from answering questions by refusing to respond to hypotheticals, which I’m actually quite surprised that no one pointed out was the actual job of the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land is supposed to judge laws not only based on the facts of the case, but also on the precedent it would create, the hypotheticals.  This is why being a Supreme Court justice is a highly political position.  So for a nominee to refuse to answer whether a sitting president could be indicted on a crime based on the fact that the question is a hypothetical, seems like an abandonment of what a judge is required to do as well as a demonstration of disrespect to the hearing process.

I really admire Sen. Kamala Harris cornering him when he asked him whether he has discussed Robert Mueller’s investigation with any of Trump’s lawyers. His long equivocation in asking for specific lawyers’ names which eventually descended to an “I can’t recall” which the next day evolved into a “no,” is a glaring signal that this person is hiding things. Heck, the fact that there are documents hidden from members of the committee and public should disqualify him immediately. If it walks and talks like a shady and dishonest character, it probably is a shady and dishonest character.

And really, trying to explain to a room full of lawmakers repeatedly what a precedent means is amateur hour, not to mention condescending. It is Kavanaugh’s inartful attempt of wasting time.

As for the question of whether a sitting president could be indicted. Kavanaugh was part of the team that tried to bring down Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He asked the most personal and nonsensical questions regarding the affair. Back then, a president could not lie to save his reputation or his marriage, otherwise he should be impeached. Now that Trump is president, Kavanaugh is equivocating whether he could be indicted for more serious crimes. No one living in a democracy should allow for a president not to be indicted for crimes. That is what a democracy is. Obama should not be allowed to murder his chef the same way Trump should not be allowed to behead Stephen Miller without being prosecuted. Presidents are not kings; they are not above the law. The only question is whether it should be done while the president is in office or not, and whether Congress would impeach him and begin criminal prosecution.

In my opinion, despite all of this, I think Kavanaugh will be installed as a Supreme Court Justice. Republicans have the votes and their opposition is far too weak to stop his confirmation. There are simply no heroes among the Republicans, and no strong leadership among the Democrats. I really hope I’m wrong, because if Trump became president through several criminal acts (collusion, campaign finance violation, etc.), why would he be allowed to nominate an arbiter who would ultimately decide whether he could be indicted for crimes in an office which he gained through criminal means. It’s a turducken of legal fucked-up-ness.

BTW: Why aren’t lawyers, professors, and everyone involved in law protesting this? This is a brazen attempt to co-opt the judicial branch into an arm of the Republican Party. I’m not so naïve to think that it hasn’t been co-opted by politics in the past, but this is so brazen and the consequences are so great that it’s a wonder why aren’t more people outraged that this whole process is even allowed to take place.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#MeToo and an Idiot with Clean Hands

Odd Feeling

About a month ago, a prominent progressive politician in Korea was accused of raping his assistant in at least four incidents. This rocked the country’s left wing base since Ahn Hee-Jung is quite the popular figure and was even being groomed to be the next president after Moon Jae-In. The accuser claimed that she couldn’t refuse his advances and was in fear. Ahn however, claimed that the relationship between the two was consensual. Despite only being accused, the damage was already done. Ahn was removed from his position. It is very unlikely that he could resurrect his political career. Some people on the left however, despite being early proponents of the #MeToo movement are now starting to question the whole thing, thinking that some accusers weren’t really raped. Perhaps they were paid off by political opponents? Perhaps they were expecting a payoff in the end? Why did it take so long for many of the country’s accusers to come forward? The latest high profile celebrity brought down by the #MeToo movement in the country had accusers calling back to incidents ten years ago. People are wondering if these women are truly acting honestly, and whether they truly have clean hands.

The doctrine of clean hands state that those looking for equity must have equity as well. An accuser must have no unethical agenda and should act in bad faith. The defendant has the burden of proof to prove that the accuser is not acting with clean hands. The onus is not on the accuser to prove that they are acting with clean hands.

Absent of prior investigations, legal judgments, or evidence contrary to the fact, I tend to side with rape accusers automatically simply because it is difficult to prove  that it happened or not, and despite this difficulty, an accuser would be willing to stake his/her reputation in the name of justice. I think this is truer in a country like South Korea where the stigma of being a rape victim would have more lasting and deeper consequences than it would on the west. Being a spinster or a divorcee still has negative connotations in the country. I could only imagine the burden of being a known rape victim.

With the Ahn case, many suspect the accuser of acting on bad faith simply because it happened four times and she “allowed” it to happen. I believe this is a case of blaming the victim. It is simply arrogant to think claim that a person would act differently should they be in the same circumstances, not knowing all of the circumstances at all. We were not the victim. We were not in her head. Also, as Ahn’s supporters, the onus is on them to prove that the accuser was acting on faith, and not the accuser.  And I have to say there is hypocrisy in them saying that the accuser was not being sincere, when I suspect they wouldn’t be so willing to attack accusers if they were claiming foul play by members of the opposite party. This makes their distrust of the accuser politically motivated. They are not acting with clean hands.

In this scenario, absent of evidence, I believe there are two possible realities with two camps in each. One reality is where the accuser is telling the truth. To believe her would be a marriage of two goods: an accuser with clean hands and supporters of victims believing them with no motivation whatsoever other than justice. To not believe the accuser when she is telling the truth would either be blindness or just an act of political tribalism.

The other reality is where the accuser is lying. She has been paid by Ahn’s political opponents. And those who innocently and truly believe her, regardless of whether they are in the same side as Ahn or not, are fools. They are idiots easily manipulated by the #MeToo movement.  Those who do not believe her when she is lying look wise to be critical of what seems to be falsehoods. However, they also risk crucifying a victim for their “wisdom” and preventing others from coming out.

The people who do not believe Ahn’s accuser, absent of evidence, are hoping that they are wise enough to see through the accuser’s lies, and that they are indeed lies. I would rather believe the accuser and risk being a naïve idiot, a naïve idiot with clean hands.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Presidency in a Lon Fuller Cave

Vishnu.jpg

When is a criminal act a criminal act? I remember studying R v Dudley and Stephens.  In the case, four men were shipwrecked, and with little hope of making it to land and one of the men fallen into a comatose state, two of the men decided to kill and eat the dying man in order to survive. One of the men refused to participate. The case was a precedent in establishing that necessity doesn’t justify murder. If I remember correctly, it was also a test on the reaches of the law, and whether the fact that the men were lost at sea and therefore out of the reach of legal powers, makes the law inapplicable to them during the act, much like a legal Schrödinger’s cat.

This is somewhat related to the “Case of the Speluncean Explorers” written by Lon Fuller for the Harvard Law Review. It’s a though experiment where Fuller gives a hypothetical case of cave explorers who were trapped in a cave, and in order to stave of starvation, drew lots on who to murder and eat in order for the rest of the men to survive. He wrote about five judges’ differing opinions on the case. I would not explain all of the judges’ reasoning, but one judge argued for setting aside convictions since the “murderers” in the case were out of the reach of the laws of society and thus were in a state of nature and under natural law. Under natural law, rules are governed by reason, and it is only reasonable to kill one person in order for the rest to survive. The purpose of the law forbidding murder, which is deterrence, also doesn’t apply to them under such a state because A. they were in an extreme situation B. it could be argued that preventing one murder would lead to more deaths, and C. which legal authority would prevent the murder in such a state?

This brings me to the current issue of the growing case against Donald Trump. In order to hide possible collusion with Russia during the election, Trump may have committed several indictable offences already, committing crimes to cover up a crime. He may be tried for intimidating witnesses and obstruction of justice when he tweeted about James Comey after firing him and Sally Yates during her questioning. He may be guilty of obstruction of justice when he inquired about his own investigations, asked for the investigations to end, and fired people investigating him. And even asking for a loyalty pledge from his own investigator is obstruction of justice and a criminal conspiracy should Comey have agreed to pledge to Trump. There’s also him tweeting about the supposed tapes, which if they do exist, could also implicate him in whatever crime he’s trying to blackmail Comey with, or would make him guilty of obstruction of justice and destroying evidence should he say that he got rid of the tapes. This is just for the past couple of days. It doesn’t take into account the original issue of collusion with a foreign government as well as conflicts of interests regarding his businesses.

Now, with all of these low-hanging fruit, would someone try to remove Trump from office? I’m afraid the president of the United States is in Lon Fuller’s cave as well. The country is in an extreme state, and just like the laws of society could not touch the men in R v Dudley and Stephens while they were at sea or the men in the cave, no one can touch Trump unless the people in power are willing to look for a crime. By virtue of him being in power and with the Republican majority being tied to their party, Trump might as well be killing and feeding on people while stuck in lawless isolation. He could hand the nuclear codes and all state secrets to Vladimir Putin while kissing him in the mouth during a press conference and it won’t be an offense unless people are willing to call it so. So far, he seems to have gotten away with so many offenses but people are willing to look the other way and not punish him the way other normal citizen would rightly face consequences in a civil society (“grab them by the pussy” anyone?). Trump is out of the reaches of law at the moment. Someone please bring him back to where the rest of us are before he causes any more damage.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Message with Sally Yates

Copies.jpg

I was going to write a love letter to Manitoba, but recent news has got me upset. What happened with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was not the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon was more subtle by comparison. The Trump administration had the constitutional right to remove Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from her position for not following Trump’s executive order to ban Muslim immigration from seven countries, but there is absolutely no reason to tar and feather her by saying she “betrayed” the country and that she is “weak on borders and weak on illegal immigration.” The statement they issued was petty and vindictive, and they flaunt their authority over the justice system, completely ignoring the federal court orders to have the immigration ban stayed. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates cannot act on the executive order when federal courts are against it and the Supreme Court has not made a ruling on its legality.

As the top lawyer of the United States, it is not the attorney general’s job to agree with everything the president does. To do so would make the position technically moot. This also isn’t the first time an attorney general or a deputy attorney general has acted against a sitting president’s orders. James Comey famously went against the president’s wishes just a few years ago. Of course, many attorney generals go along with the administration’s wishes. After all, they get their by the administration’s recommendation. Eric Holder was extremely partisan and didn’t go after the big banks after the Obama administration mentioned that they weren’t looking to prosecute them. But while they are partisan appointees, their job is to uphold the law and make sure that the executive branch acts within the scope of the law. It is not the attorney general’s job to do something which they believe is illegal or somehow bend the rules to make them legal. They definitely can, and can be rewarded for being loyal partisan actors, but it’s blatantly unethical to relieve someone of their position for not doing something which they believe is illegal.

This constitutional duty to not blindly follow the leader but to follow the letter of the law as well as what is ethical is what allows me to sleep at night despite knowing that Trump has the nuclear codes. He may order a country to be bombed simply because a citizen there annoyed him on Twitter, but it is the officer’s as well as everyone else in the hierarchy’s duty to not follow his order if they deemed it illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is their civic duty to do so; and to follow the president’s order in such a case would be a dereliction of duty. This is what Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to do, to carry out an act which is in her opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of working for the justice department, is both illegal and indefensible. It was her duty to refuse the president. And for that, she got sacked.

But really, what choice does she have. The Muslim ban is clearly a disaster and several federal court orders agree. It was an executive order that was hastily made without consultation from the president’s own top advisors. His own Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, does not support the order, and believes it endangers the troops he’s been recently made in charge of. As far as I can tell, the only people who were certainly in the room when Trump drafted the order was Stephen Miller, a young political operative with a racist history, and Steve Bannon, a publisher of a Web site frequented by neo-Nazis. They’re not exactly the people with the most expertise regarding immigration and national security. But then again, neither is Trump. The woman Trump fired had more years serving the public, more years keeping the country safe, than Trump.

And to those defending the Muslim ban, calling it a mere travel restriction, even Trump calls it a ban. And whatever name you call it, and even if you only limit it to those seven countries, it still affects Muslims. It still goes against the notion of having no religious test for the country. It flies in the face of common decency. The measure doesn’t make the US safer. It makes it harder for the military to gain allies in those seven countries and serves as a great recruitment tool for ISIS. But then again, what do expect from the great military expertise of Trump, Miller, and Bannon?

Sally Yates’ firing goes along with the message that the Trump administration is sending out. From journalists and employees at the National Park Service, to long-time government employees and officials- if you’re not with the Trump agenda, you should be fired. This is an amazingly flagrant display of authoritarianism.

It’s been a really dark few days. Even Canada has not been immune to Trump’s brand of intolerance. Quebec has been marred with tragedy, with the shooting of a mosque. And while some detractors will point out that Quebec has had a history of intolerance long before the Trump phenomenon, the shooter has been a part of the same alt-right movement which supports Trump.

It’s going to be a tiring few years. I believe the wave of bigotry will continue to wreak havoc long after we stopped getting daily bad news from Trump. There will be frequent protests and frequent outrages. Luckily, it is exactly during these times when people can become heroes by fighting injustice. Sally Yates will now be remembered as a hero. Honestly, I doubt if many people knew her name before she stood against Donald Trump. Now it’s time for people to go against him, take advantage of the growing rage against the US government’s recent actions, and make a name for themselves. If not because it is the right thing to do, but it is also good politics.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foreigners in Local Protests

napoleon

Working in the heart of Seoul where protests usually happen, I’ve seen it so many times, foreigners looking at protests. Now, the protests in Seoul rarely get violent, so it’s a bit of a spectacle for tourists to come and see how protests are in other countries. It makes them seem like they’re seeing an unusual political event aside from the usual touristy fare. Unfortunately, protests here happen at least once a week. They usually interrupt my work on Thursday afternoons.

The recent string of protests that got the president of South Korea impeached however are much larger than regular protests. They’re bigger and are more elaborate affairs, with choreographed light shows and musical entertainment. It can be quite tempting for foreigners to come and see the protests and witness history taking place. But in such cases, there’s a very blurred line between witnessing a government protest and taking part in it.

Several people in Korea have invited me to join them in the protests, and as much a political junkie as I am, it is really not in my place to take part in a protest in a country where I am technically a guest by the government. There’s also some chance of violence erupting, and I’m sure most embassies wouldn’t encourage people to be near the protests. I haven’t heard of anybody being arrested and deported for participating in a government protest, but just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do. It also doesn’t mean that the government is not well within their rights to deport any foreign visitors participating in anti-government activities. How would Canada react to foreigners coming in to Canada to protest the government? I would be thinking differently if the issues directly affected foreigners, say Canada decided that all permanent residents (landed immigrants/ non-Canadian residents) must now pay higher taxes than Canadian citizens. But many of the protests I’ve seen where foreigners are wandering into are about issues that don’t really affect them directly.

One of the protests in the past that comes to mind is the mad cow protests several years ago. Koreans didn’t want American beef imports to Korea because of suspected cases of mad cow. Now, this was all just a massive hysteria with a healthy dose of anti-Americanism, but this didn’t stop millions of people protesting in the streets. In these protests, I even saw foreigners participating. Now, I couldn’t tell whether they were Americans or not, but seeing how the country now fully accepts American beef imports with little consequences, not only are the protests a big egg on the face of the Koreans but also to the foreigners who participated. There must be better ways to bond with the locals than joining protests.

The local media however sure loves pointing cameras at visibly foreign faces during news stories. It gives events an international vibe. Perhaps that’s part of the allure. Hey, we might get on TV in Asia!

The thing is foreigners don’t have a dog in the fight, so why go against the country which gave them the privilege to visit? The one time foreigners had an issue to legitimately protest the Korean government was when they made it mandatory for all foreign teachers to pass an AIDS test prior to getting teaching visas in fear of them giving AIDS to school children. That was a horrible piece of racist, xenophobic legislation that didn’t get any protest in the streets, not from locals or foreigners. And to this day, foreign teachers are still taking AIDS tests, some of them believing the lie that it’s for their health insurance.

So what is a foreigner to do? Stay out of it. If you have to be a tourist, take a picture, and spread the story to your friends. Locals love it when their stories reach an audience overseas. Otherwise, know why you’re really here (as a guest) and know why people are protesting (It’s usually not about you).

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,