Sometimes flashes of wit or irony can be costly. When a drug cartel in Medellín, Colombia decided to ship cocaine inside the shell of coffee beans, someone decided it would be funny to label the sender “Santino D’Antonio.” Apparently, Italian police also like the John Wick series and recognized the name of the mafia boss from “John Wick: Chapter 2.” The cost of the joke was the cocaine shipment and methinks there is a some avid movie lover in hot water with Medellín. To paraphrase the mafia character Santino D’Antonio, now “you have no [coke], no [beans], no [sale]. You have nothing. Vengeance is all you have left.”
I recently received a letter contesting my statements concerning Attorney General Bill Barr in columns (here and here and here and here) and congressional testimony (here and here). The letter is from Ralph Nader, Lou Fisher, and Bruce Fein. I have known all three signatories for many years and I have the utmost respect for them. They offer detailed and thoughtful disagreements with my past statements and the record of Attorney General Bill Barr. I asked them if they would allow me to share their arguments with the blog and they have agreed to do so. As with the prior posting of Professor Morrison, I strongly encourage you to consider the analysis from three of the most influential minds in Washington.
These are figures who require little introduction. They are well known throughout the world for their contributions to the law and public policy. Ralph Nader is as legendary figure who has fought his entire life for consumer protection, environmental protection and good government. He has run for president repeatedly (indeed I voted for him) and is widely viewed as one of the most influential figures in the world on public policy. Lou Fisher spent four decades at the Congressional Research Service and is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the shaping of congressional legislation and policies. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on constitutional and congressional issues. Bruce Fein was a high ranking Justice Department figure in the Reagan Administration and has been one of the most influential conservative voices in print and television for decades. He is known for his independent and principled analysis of legal and constitutional issues.
As I stated in Attorney General Barr’s confirmation, he comes to this position with long-established and robust views of executive privilege and powers. While I have long disagreed with him on many of these issues, I view many of the current controversies to reflect policy and interpretative differences, not ethical or criminal or impeachable misconduct. I do not agree with presumptions made about his improper motivations or designs in carrying out his duties, for a second time, as Attorney General of the United States. Despite my many friends on the other side, my view has not changed. Nevertheless, people of good-faith can disagree and that is precisely what is offered by Messrs. Nader, Fisher, and Fein (sounds like a great law firm!)
Here is their letter for your consideration:
China has a long and authoritarian history of suppressing free speech even though some academics now believe that it has been right all along on such suppression on the Internet. Just when you thought China could not get more bold and outrageous in its anti-free speech actions, it surprises you. This week China sanctioned Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz for criticizing its treatment of minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Continue reading “China Sanctions U.S. Senators For Criticizing China”
This week saw the unwelcomed return of dentist Walter Palmer, 60, to international media coverage. Palmer was widely denounced over his shooting of “Cecil the Lion” for a trophy five years ago. He is now back with a series of gruesome pictures with a dead ram from Mongolia. The argali ram is considered “near threatened” but are a favorite for trophy hunters including a similar hunting trip by Donald Trump Jr. Continue reading “Minnesota Dentist Walter Palmer Under Fire For Renewed Trophy Hunting”
In a surprising move, Ghislaine Maxwell, the British heiress and confidante to the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire. Maxwell’s arrest could have a ripple effect on both criminal and civil matters ranging from the still uncertain status of Prince Andrew to a number of defamation lawsuits. One of Maxwell’s principal accuser was Virginia Roberts Giuffre who has filed lawsuits against Maxwell as well as figures like Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz. It appears that the charges derive from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, another indication that the recent controversy of the replacement of the U.S. Attorney has not impacted underlying investigations.
In Washington, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly has ruled against the Trump Administration in its important “third-country asylum rule” — prohibiting undocumented immigrants from claiming asylum in the United States if they did not first try to claim it in a country they passed through on their way to the U.S. border. The ruling is yet another example of how basic failures to follow procedure or submit supporting evidence has hampered the rollout of major policy initiatives. Kelly was not questioning the underlying deference to the Administration or the ultimate merits. Rather as in the recent loss before the Supreme Court under DACA (or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), the court found that the government had failed to satisfy the minimal requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, or APA. Since the start of the Administration, there has been a lack of attention to detail and basic procedure that has resulted in a series of technical violations. It has incurred losses that were not only avoidable but easily avoidable with adherence to the governing case law on the APA.
We have been discussing the erosion of free speech on social media and the Internet. This includes calls from leading Democratic leaders for years to implement private censorship of political speech, a view supported by academics who have declared that “China was right” about censorship. The latest attack on free speech comes from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign which has asked Facebook and Twitter to remove posts by Republican President Donald Trump aimed at discrediting mail-in voting. While Trump’s statements have been widely criticized as without foundation, they constitute political speech. Biden however wants these companies to help censor such statements from his opponent and many are supporting the effort. Continue reading “Biden Pushes Facebook and Twitter To Remove Trump Criticisms of Mail-In Voting”
I have been a critic of the alarming criminalizing of speech in Great Britain through hate speech laws. Such laws create an insatiable appetite for greater and greater speech regulation and create a sense of empowerment among citizens to silence those with whom they disagree. Now, a Scottish man has been convicted of a message that was grossly offensive, indecent or menacing. According to the Evening Express, the prosecutor (appropriately named Susan Love) cited the fact that Terry Myers, 41, called the Irish boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend a “leprechaun.”
We have been discussing the destruction of public art and history monuments by mobs who are often allowed to carry out such acts without police intervention, a problem that pre-existed the current protests (here and here and here). It was particularly alarming to see statues defaced or destroyed in London, including (bizarrely) a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The response in London and Paris is strikingly different but, in this tale of two cities, it is London that seems to be surrendering to the hysteria of the moment.
I will be speaking today at the CogX Conference today in England organized by the government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI). Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I will be speaking virtually on facial recognition technology and privacy rights. That is a loss for me given the fact that London is one of my favorite places on Earth. (Postings will be delayed today due to the speech).
In a surprise move, the United States Attorneys Office in New York has invoked the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, or MLAT, to demand an interview with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in relation to the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein’s history of sexual abuse. While Prince Andrew pledged to cooperate in every way, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman insisted that he has not assisted in any way with the investigation. The use of the MLAT to subpoena the testimony of a Royal family member is nothing short of breathtaking as a development. The assumption was that any real criminal inquiry died with Epstein. That is clearly not the case.
I have written for years on the crackdown on free speech in France, Germany, and England though hate speech laws and speech regulations. As many on this blog know, I am unabashedly against limits on free speech and have opposed most public and private forms of censorship for decades. This often means that, like everyone in the free speech community, I find myself opposing actions against some of the most obnoxious, juvenile, or hateful people in our society. That is the case with this story. Three British teenagers have been arrested for a Snapchat video mocking the death of George Floyd. It was a deeply offensive and stupid act, but the question remains whether society is criminalizing a wider and wider scope of speech.
President Donald Trump’s executive order on social media is framed around the effort to remove protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. For those of us who teach torts, Section 230 has been a long controversy in its shielding of companies from liability in defamation and other lawsuits. As I write today in my Hill column, Twitter is dangerously wrong in its action against the Trump tweets and Trump is right that this represents a serious attack on free speech. However, I was also critical of the threat to “shut down” or “strongly regulate” media companies. Putting the retaliatory language aside, this is not a change that will likely succeed without congressional action. However, there are some legitimate questions that Congress should consider while, in my view, erring on the side of protecting free speech. Continue reading “The Trump Executive Order and the Section 230 Option To “Strongly Regulate” Social Media”
I had to share this video from Italy. As many of on the blog know, my primary recreation is backpacking and hiking. I have often shared photos of wild animals spotted on those trips but this video from the Brenta Mountains in the Italian Alps is quite unnerving. To have a large bear moving toward such a small child is really dangerous but thankfully everyone (particularly this young boy) remained calm and cool.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that a formal criminal investigation has been launched into then-Vice President Joe Biden’s demand that Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko fire the country’s lead prosecutor in exchange for U.S. aid. Critics, and President Donald Trump has long argued that Biden was seeking to end an investigation into Burisma, an oil company that gave his son, Hunter, highly suspicious payments as a board member. The investigation will now go forward as the Senate issued the first subpoenas of its own on the Biden-Burisma scandal.