Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Inconclusive Unscientific Postscript

This is Hallowe'en!

I'm spending the day (ah!  retirement!) scanning my seminary papers so I can shred the hard copies (why I am keeping them at all is another matter.  Because I can, mostly. They really aren't worth the paper they're printed on.)

I mention it because I mentioned on-line seminary education the other day.  I seem to have gone through about 1000 printed pages, without exaggeration, in my four years in seminary.  One document includes a handscrawled note apologizing for not turning in a required set of "journal entries," simply because I ran out of paper the night before.  Several papers I actually turned in (apparently?) were printed on the back of drafts I had printed but never submitted.

I remember us (the Lovely Wife, and the Golden Child, and I) being as poor as proverbial church mice, so I'm sure this was a cost-cutting measure.

Anyway, I'm scanning them because I've been through more than a few computers since then (one document notes my seminary computer crashing twice while I was trying to write, taking documents with it.  Those were the days, huh?).  I don't even remember what computer I had then, and I've since switched to a Mac, so compatability of old files (30 year old computer files, by now) would have been a problem anyway (I'm archiving PDF's, but we'll see how that works out in the future.  Or, again, I won't really care.  It's not like humanity losing the Alexandrian library here, ya know.)

In my last several years as an English teacher I took papers on-line only, whether the class was on-line or face-to-face.  So maybe that will be a savings of paper and ink for rustypickup.  If he gets his classes online, the papers will be, too. The savings on paper and storage space alone will be a blessing.

And you can probably just take an iPad into the pulpit with you.

I think I scanned all my sermons a couple of years back… 🤔 Again, no loss to humanity if I didn’t….


Yes, those are my jack o' lanterns, from 18 years ago.  I've seldom been so ambitious since.

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.

Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin' clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween
Fu' blithe that night.

The lasses feat, and cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they're fine;
Their faces blithe, fu' sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, and warm, and kin';
The lads sae trig, wi' wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, and some wi' gabs,
Gar lasses' hearts gang startin'
Whiles fast at night.

Then, first and foremost, through the kail,
Their stocks maun a' be sought ance;
They steek their een, and graip and wale,
For muckle anes and straught anes.
Poor hav'rel Will fell aff the drift,
And wander'd through the bow-kail,
And pou't, for want o' better shift,
A runt was like a sow-tail,
Sae bow't that night.

Then, staught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar and cry a' throu'ther;
The very wee things, todlin', rin,
Wi' stocks out owre their shouther;
And gif the custoc's sweet or sour.
Wi' joctelegs they taste them;
Syne cozily, aboon the door,
Wi cannie care, they've placed them
To lie that night.

The lasses staw frae 'mang them a'
To pou their stalks of corn:
But Rab slips out, and jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippet Nelly hard and fast;
Loud skirl'd a' the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
When kitlin' in the fause-house
Wi' him that night.

The auld guidwife's well-hoordit nits,
Are round and round divided,
And monie lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle coothie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.

Jean slips in twa wi' tentie ee;
Wha 'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel:
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.

Poor Willie, wi' his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi' primsie Mallie;
And Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compared to Willie;
Mall's nit lap out wi' pridefu' fling,
And her ain fit it brunt it;
While Willie lap, and swore by jing,
'Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min',
She pits hersel and Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
Till white in ase they're sobbin';
Nell's heart was dancin' at the view,
She whisper'd Rob to leuk for't:
Rob, stowlins, prie'd her bonny mou',
Fu' cozie in the neuk for't,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea'es them gashin' at their cracks,
And slips out by hersel:
She through the yard the nearest taks,
And to the kiln goes then,
And darklins graipit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue throws then,
Right fear't that night.

And aye she win't, and aye she swat,
I wat she made nae jaukin',
Till something held within the pat,
Guid Lord! but she was quakin'!
But whether 'was the deil himsel,
Or whether 'twas a bauk-en',
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She didna wait on talkin'
To spier that night.

Wee Jennie to her grannie says,
"Will ye go wi' me, grannie?
I'll eat the apple at the glass
I gat frae Uncle Johnnie:"
She fuff't her pipe wi' sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap'rin',
She notice't na, an aizle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night.

"Ye little skelpie-limmer's face!
I daur you try sic sportin',
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune.
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
And lived and died deleeret
On sic a night.

"Ae hairst afore the Sherramoor, --
I mind't as weel's yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I'm sure
I wasna past fifteen;
The simmer had been cauld and wat,
And stuff was unco green;
And aye a rantin' kirn we gat,
And just on Halloween
It fell that night.

"Our stibble-rig was Rab M'Graen,
A clever sturdy fallow:
His son gat Eppie Sim wi' wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,
And he made unco light o't;
But mony a day was by himsel,
He was sae sairly frighted
That very night."

Then up gat fechtin' Jamie Fleck,
And he swore by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a' but nonsense.
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
And out a hanfu' gied him;
Syne bade him slip frae 'mang the folk,
Some time when nae ane see'd him,
And try't that night.

He marches through amang the stacks,
Though he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks.
And haurls it at his curpin;
And every now and then he says,
"Hemp-seed, I saw thee,
And her that is to be my lass,
Come after me, and draw thee
As fast this night."

He whistled up Lord Lennox' march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to arch,
He was say fley'd and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grane and gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
And tumbled wi' a wintle
Out-owre that night.

He roar'd a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu' desperation!
And young and auld came runnin' out
To hear the sad narration;
He swore 'twas hilchin Jean M'Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till, stop! she trotted through them
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!

Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen,
To win three wechts o' naething;
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
And two red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That very nicht.

She turns the key wi cannie thraw,
And owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca'
Syne bauldly in she enters:
A ratton rattled up the wa',
And she cried, Lord, preserve her!
And ran through midden-hole and a',
And pray'd wi' zeal and fervour,
Fu' fast that night;

They hoy't out Will wi' sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom'd thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin';
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black grousome carlin;
And loot a winze, and drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin'
Aff's nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlin;
But, och! that night amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu' settlin'!
She through the whins, and by the cairn,
And owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds' lands met at a burn
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.

Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimpl't;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl't;
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays,
Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.

Among the brackens, on the brae,
Between her and the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up and gae a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart maist lap the hool!
Near lav'rock-height she jumpit;
but mist a fit, and in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi' a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three are ranged,
And every time great care is ta'en',
To see them duly changed:
Auld Uncle John, wha wedlock joys
Sin' Mar's year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.

Wi' merry sangs, and friendly cracks,
I wat they didna weary;
And unco tales, and funny jokes,
Their sports were cheap and cheery;
Till butter'd so'ns, wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin';
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin'
Fu' blythe that night.

--Robert Burns

You cannot make heads or tails of this without Burns' annotations, which you can find here (and you thought Eliot invented the self-annotated poem), complete with an Eliotesque headnote (he expected you to read Greek and Latin; Burns expects you to read Scots dialect and know that Cassilis Downans is not just a place, but a fairy haunt.  What did people do before Google?).

Yes, I’ve done this once or twice before. But the point of the poem is that it describes the Hallowe’en parties of yore, recounting all the practices usual for the celebration. Most of them were aimed at prognostication, usually around who one would marry. It’s really fun to read, and following Burns’ notes will repay the effort. What it doesn’t have to do with is ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. Which tells you our modern Hallowe’en is a very modern invention, and probably says more about us than about our ancestors.

Who seem to have had a much better time of it.


 Can we start with him? Lead by example, I always say.

All Hallow’s Even 2023

For all the saints.  Or All Saint's Day.  Or actually, Dios de los Muertos, which is how it's marketed.

 Hallowe’en sort of opens the door to the end-of-year holy days of the church. Technically the liturgical year ends with the last Sunday of Pentecost, Reign of Christ Sunday, or in the German tradition of my church, the Totenfest. The last Sunday of Pentecost is always the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent. The First Sunday of Advent is always the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which is a fixed date. Like Hallowe’en; always the last day of October, because it’s the eve of All Saints Day, which is always November 1.

So the dates that change are the Last Sunday of Pentecost, and the first Sunday of Advent. We’ve gone a long time without a holiday since Easter (there are feast days on the Catholic calendar, and Reformation Sunday for some Protestant churches, but in the American secular world it’s a drought relieved only by the Fourth of July and maybe Labor Day.) Starting October 31st we catch up, setting ourselves up for Christmas beginning with a December meant to be a festival, but is more often just a chore.

Anyway, Hallowe’en is our gateway. Hallowe’en in October, Thanksgiving in November, and all of December culminating with Christmas Eve and Christmas and, if you’re lucky, Christmastide through January 1. The six weeks between Epiphany (Twelfth Night) and Lent were once observed as a joyful time capped by the raucous Mardi Gras ending precisely at midnight of Ash Wednesday, the gateway to Lent. If you’re counting, that’s four “eves” that are really more celebrated than the days that follow them, from October to March. Not sure what that means, but I’ll try to get back to you on it.

I've posted some variations of this before. This year the introduction is new.  Hey, this site is free, right?  Besides, I came across this, complaining about Hallowe'en because, implicitly, it's not an "actual holiday":

But at least Christmas is an actual holiday with deep religious roots. Not everyone has been seduced by its commercialism. And if you want to ban Christmas celebrations during school hours, that’s probably not a bad idea either.

Which ignorance needs to be clarified.  Yes, Christmas does have "deep religious roots," but Hallowe'en is "All Hallow's Even," or the day before All Saint's Day.  Well, if you don't already know, you'll see.

Some of my best childhood memories revolve around Hallowe'en.  My mother's youngest sister, the "crazy" aunt who came to our church Halloween party (this was when I was just barely too old to wander the streets at night with the "children"), put on makeup to look like a corpse in a coffin (an early version of "Beetlejuice," mostly), and then joined us to bob for apples (probably the first time I'd done that, and I found out what hard, wet work it is.  And what absolutely foolish fun.).  Or just the freedom of wandering the streets at night without my parents in tow, joining all the neighborhood kids of the Baby Boom as we walked from house to house in clumps that gathered and broke again, passing stories of where to get the best candy, or the homemade stuff like popcorn balls and caramel apples, stuff always gone by the time you got there, or always from a house several streets over of undetermined location or ill-defined description.  And the story always included that house being "out" by the time your heard of it.  It prepared us for Christmases when we'd have to find the "IT" toy for our kids in an unforeseeable future.  My wife dressing up in black tights and leotard as a "cat" for our daughter's first Hallowe'en a mere five months after giving birth....oh, wait.  You don't need to hear about that one.

I still send my Aunt a Peanuts Hallowe’en card every year. She tells me she’s kept them all, which is nice to think about.

All the internet bluster about Hallowe'en and Samhain seems to have faded now, as well as the business of Hallowe'en being "stolen" from "ancient practices."  Most of that is echoing remnants of the early 19th century, Romanticism turning into Victorianism.  It was the Romantic movement that began to preserve "folklore," as it came to be called.  "Came to be" not because it was illegitimate, but because it was ignored and despised before the Romantics, who saved it but didn't actually revive it.  They did make it respectable literature, no mean feat.

The Victorians then supercharged it, along with fuzzy memories of medieval Europe.  Most of the ghost stories and "monsters" we know now (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, etc.) are products of the Victorian imagination, not remnants of stories told around campfires 3 millenia ago.  The Victorians tried to link them to an imagined past to make them "authentic" in a risingly scientific age, but the connections are horseshit.  Most of those stories are distinctly "modern." (Mary Shelley made her "creature" a blend of science and alchemy.  Bram Stoker, at the other end of the century, relied solely on "folklore" that, mostly, he made up. But his novel bristles with what was then cutting edge technology, mostly for verisimilitude.)

Tower Bridge was created by Victorians to be a "medieval" bridge, complete with turrets (all built mostly to hide the drawbridge mechanism).  If you're familiar with Neuschwanstein, the castle that looks like it belongs in Disneyland; that's Victorian era, too.

"Modern" means as modern as Poe's stories, most of which are conveniently set in a Europe of an indeterminate age when people dressed in what is now costume and ran around in castles and buildings that look more like something from a Disney themepark than reality.  And Poe was an American Romantic writing in the mid-19th century, in America. Again, the connection to an imagined past gave the stories the verisimilitude they required.

So most of our Hallowe'en is a matter of memory and conjecture, and the stories we tell ourselves.  But it isn't rooted in some "truth" we destroyed with our "enlightenment" or our "progress."  As with most things, our "truth" about these matters is what we say it is.

All Saint's Day, per New Advent, started in...well, here, let me just give you the whole magilla:

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (379) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a "Commemoratio Confessorum" for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).

So, mid 9th century, All Saints got set as a date on the Church's calendar, having started as a feast day under Gregory a century earlier. That led, later, to All Soul's on November 2. It was so important a day it acquired an “Eve,” as did, later, Christmas. I don’t know of any other date on the Christian calendar that has such an honor. (Easter has Holy Saturday, but nobody considers that “Easter Eve.”)

So, no, All Saints Day isn’t as “deeply rooted” as Christmas (4th century), but it’s old enough.

The connections to Ireland, especially jack o'lanterns (turnips in Ireland, only after a long period exclusively pumpkins, which are as American as corn and tobacco), didn't really come until the 19th century.  Attempted connections between the Irish Samhain and All Saint's are all pretty much retrojection, especially as an attempt to connect Hallowe'en to Irish practices it supposedly overtook. Gregory was a long way from Ireland in the 8th century and Christianity only reached the island in the 9th century.  It's a pretty small tail wagging a pretty large dog to imagine Gregory picked the date for the entire church just to appeal to an Irish pagan festival in a land that hadn’t yet learned of Xianity and when it did, was still on the fringes of “civilization.”

The vigil, by the way, that "seems to have been held as early as the feast itself," is Hallowe'en.  That vigil appears in the literature as early as Shakespeare, where the practices of the Roman church were slowly being turned Anglican; but that's another story.  Curiously, most of the literature on Hallowe'en begins in the late 18th century, with Robert Burns in Scotland.  It continues in the early 19th century with Walter Scott.  It jumps the pond to Washington Irving's story of Ichabod Crane, where Disney (?; or someone before them) transforms the pumpkin into a jack o' lantern, which makes it a Hallowe'en story.  And then we get Poe.  The iconic black cat of Hallowe'en decorations arguably stems from Poe's story of the same name.  By Poe's time, of course, especially in Puritan tinctured America, the holiday has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic vigil.

Interestingly, the Aztecs and Mayans (and even lesser known groups in Mexico) had festivals honoring the return of the dead.  I can't say for sure the dates of the observances didn't shift after Christians changed the culture, but George Frazer found the Irish expecting the return of the dead around the end of October, which makes sense as people left the fields (farmers first, herdsman as it got too cold finally for the herds) and went indoors to survive the winter.  Thinking of those lost is a likelier custom as winter sets in, especially in Europe.  It seems to be have been as true in tropical Mexico, where the current Dios de los Muertos has very distinct roots in the culture of Mexico.  Many of the practices of the days extend into pre-colombian times, including the idea that the children who have departed return on November 1, the adults on November 2.  Did they adopt the Catholic dates?  Maybe.  It is certainly a festival that is far more "pagan" than it is "Christian."  Not that there's anything wrong with that!

I noted one year (somewhere in my archives!) that there's still no concerted "War on Hallowe'en," even in years when we're told Skittles and other candies (not chocolate?  Apparently not) are going to be replaced with “fentanyl candy” (I’m still unsure why anyone in possession of any fentanyl at all would want to give it away.)  Anyway, that fear doesn't seem to have gotten as much traction as the “War on Christmas” ever did.

The original fears were foreign objects in homemade treats, so candy apples and popcorn balls disappeared (who's going to make those now, anyway?  Easier to imagine drug cartels giving away fentanyl.).  Now we have to fear packaged candy.  It reminds me of a 70 year old essay by Margaret Mead (anybody remember her?  She was a big noise once upon a time.) deriding the concept of an "age of anxiety."  The term itself referred to the fear of nuclear war that hung over everything for 20 years or so (ah, yes, I remember it well.).  Anyway, Mead pointed out that tribes in jungles and forests (and what is the difference, really?  One is less "civilized" than the other?) lived lives faced with perils at every step (from the flora and fauna, basically), and we in "civilization" had no such fears of true imminent individual death.  Well, compared to the fear of nuclear war, she was right.  But today?  What would she say today about blacks being shot by cops willy-nilly, or school shootings, or pandemics nobody wants to protect themselves from because of the inconvenience?  Or people scared to death of drugs and razor blades in Hallowe'en giveaways?  That one’s been around since I was on the streets after dark on October 31.

The Age of Anxiety is real, and it continues to plague us.  Of course it does so largely because we continue to allow ourselves to be anxious.  But I digress....

I have lamented the changing face of Hallowe'en. (Pro tip:  when you can link to posts that are over 15 years old, you've been at this too long.)  I have layered Hallowe'en into the more important rituals/holy days of our modern American calendar.   I still think some reasonable connections can be made there.  I'm going to try to keep that in mind as we move toward Advent.  (Is Hallowe'en the gateway to Advent?  Or just to All Saint's, which prepares us for the liturgical year's end?)  I've commented on the "razor blades in apples" stories, though I think the reference there (to a Salon article, of all things) is less reliable than other information I have which provides a more specific date to the origin of all those stories.

I am now reliably informed that one of the earliest full mentions of Hallowe'en and its attendant celebrations is the poem by Robert Burns that I've posted before on October 31.  I'll continue that tradition this year (what is a tradition if it doesn't continue?).  Consider this just prelude, as Hallowe'en itself is prelude to All Saint's which, I would argue, is prelude to the end of Pentecost (the season of, I mean), and in that way preparation, itself, for Advent.  Which is preparation, too.  But there I go, getting ahead of myself again.

Mostly, Hallowe'en is for fun.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Grace and Peace Be With You

 So I got this comment recently, and seemingly proceeded to ignore it:

A small personal update (not wholly unrelated to the post). After many years of consideration, I've decided to pursue a masters of divinity with a goal of parish ministry and ordination. This has been a long time coming, a more complete explanation can await another comment (I am struggling to write my application personal essay, try and explain your spiritual awaking and path to faith in two double spaced pages.) My original plan was to consider this in another three or four years, but we unexpectedly have become empty nesters (another explanation that will have to wait, other than to say it was because of series of semi-miraculous events that presented our youngest with an incredible opportunity). For the first time in 27 years not having children at home opened up the possibility of starting now rather than later. I am applying to three seminaries associated with the UCC that offer remote learning I can pursue while I continue to work. I have too many current and future school and college bills to quit my current position and attend full time in person. The number of students looking toward ordination continues to drop, the idea of "church" is rapidly changing, and it's hard to know exactly what everything will look like in 4 or 5 years when I hope to finish. That makes this both unsettling and exciting at the same time. A good note is that I am finding a lot of support, from my current pastor, the pastor at my previous church and many friends. My current church has experience with members in discernment, they are already working to put together a small committee for support and guidance as I apply and hopefully start seminary next fall.

There is much more to write, but I wanted to let you know and to more importantly thank you for all the conversations here that I feel are an important part of my move toward discerning a call.

I wasn't ignoring this, I was trying to find time to get on my computer (with a REAL keyboard) and answer it properly. I had great plans in that regard.

Which are all going to end up being this. 

I can't say much about the UCC seminaries.  Almost everyone I knew on the faculty at Eden is gone now (retired, moved on, etc.).  The professor I knew as the "junior" NT professor rose to Academic Dean after I graduated, for example.  The elevation was because of her qualifications and the fact she was ordained (the other NT professor was not a minister.  Some of the faculty were, some weren't.  They were, however, uniformly excellent, in my estimation.)  The three seminaries I’m familiar with are CUE: Chicago, United, Eden. Eden is the one i attended; all I know about United is that Reinhold Niebuhr was on staff there (although he was briefly on the faculty at Eden before that).  I was actually near United in August, visiting the Robie House on the university campus. Next door but one was the seminary bookstore. I wanted to go in, but my wife and daughter knew I’d never come out, and we had a full day planned.

So that's what I know.  On-line seminary is a new one to me, but that doesn't mean I dislike/disparage it.  I taught on-line courses for years at the local community college.  I think it's an excellent resource, though I'm glad I got to live on campus at Eden for two years, and then commute from a local church where I was the student pastor for another two years.  The experience was part of the education, and some of the education was visiting churches (how I ended up one Sunday morning in a Catholic church still worshipping in Latin, and another at one of the biggest black churches in St. Louis, where the service ended with the pastor on the PA urging people to clear the aisle and the building so the next service could seat and get started.  And that service ran leisurely over-time, but no one was in a hurry to leave.)  There's a lot to say about being in the seminary community, but those are my memories, not yours.

I was going to say something about the fearsomeness of falling into the hands of the living God, but that's more appropriate after you've been in seminary for a bit and begun to take on the responsibilities of ministry.  For now I wish you all the blessings of God and welcome you to the blessed community, and rejoice that you have heard your call and answered it, and wish you all Godspeed and grace and peace to your family.

Because you richly deserve it.  May it be for you a great adventure.

These Public Discussions Of Israel And Anti-Semitism…

 …are so complicated.

Haley, speaking at RJC just before Trump, who has been attacking her as "birdbrain," goes hard at him, saying she as POTUS wouldn't "compliment Hezbollah" or attack Israeli's leadership during war. America needs a leader "who will steady the ship, not capsize it," she says.
So very complicated:
A few weeks ago, Trump praised Hezbollah as "smart" and criticized Netanyahu. Today, he was given a raucous greeting at a large gathering at the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“There’s Nothing We Can Do…

says only country where this regularly happens.

In the wake of two deadly mass shootings, the NRA is out with an ad tonight featuring new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson saying he opposes background checks and waiting periods to purchase firearms

Time Is Hard!

 Trump throws another tantrum:

Why didn’t they start the totally political BIDEN INDICTMENTS & COURT CASES Three (3) Years Ago, instead of the MIDDLE OF MY CAMPAIGN??? Third World Country-ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!" Trump posted on Truth Social. "If they started the highly political Biden Indictments 3 years ago, everything would now be finished. THEY WAITED UNTIL MY CAMPAIGN BEGAN!
Gee, why didn’t they?

Set aside the NYAG’s civil suit, and the Manhattan DA’s criminal charges, and the Georgia RICO case, as those are all state cases (showing Trump doesn’t understand federalism or state sovereignty, and so is unfit for the Presidency). Let’s just look at the 2 federal cases.

3 years ago was 2020. Three years ago today Trump’s interference in the election, as charged in DC, hadn’t yet occurred (most of that was in late December/early January.) Even if he could have been charged, the USAG was Bill Barr. Would Trump blame himself if Barr had started an investigation?

Biden didn’t take the oath of office until January 20, 2021. Trump’s crimes (again, as charged), were only two weeks old. His crime of taking classified documents started on that date, but didn’t really warrant criminal investigation until he refused to return them and lied about what he had, several months later.

And the “election interference” he keeps screaming about is a DOJ policy not to start an investigation immediately prior to an election date, so as not to appear to be interfering with said election. The election date Trump is worrying about is still over a year away.

Guilty dog barks loudest. And a barking dog actually has more to say than Trump does.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Gag Me!

Trump is showing the strain:

Last night, Trump complained that the lack of lighting was making it difficult to read his prepared remarks, which he described as 'crap.'
Here’s what he said:
Trump: 'And I apologize for those lights. The only place I don't have is up here. We're going to have to wing it tonight. There's no lights. They give us plenty of lights but not to read this crap.'
Well, he’s giving the same speech over and over, he’s gotta change it up somehow. I figure his fans like it the way little kids like to hear the same bed-time story every night.

But he can’t stick to the script:
Trump: 'This is the darkest-looking valley I've ever seen right here. You cannot even see there's a folder down there. So, you improvise. You put it up here and pretend there is nothing happening, and then you don't read it anyway because when you read this stuff, it's no good.'
Internal dialogues going external is one thing, but this is another:
Trump: He [Biden] can’t put two sentences together 
Also Trump: They’re not doing well. They’re not being treated— and they are— they are right now at a level— I t
Projection is a harsh mistress. And teleprompters give him trouble:
Trump: 'Terrortism—terror—what, what you're doing—terrorism.'
Also Trump: My trade deal was a giant win for farmers and manufacturers Mexico and Canya
But tonight Trump said Hungary has a border with Russia. His geographical challenges are closer to home, too. Tonight in Sioux City, Iowa:
Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the city was Sioux Falls throughout the speech, before local Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun walked on stage and whispered in Donald Trump's ear to let him know where he was. The exchange was caught on hot mic. 
At one point, Donald Trump addressed the Iowa crowd, saying, "Very big hello to a place where we've done very well. Sioux Falls, thank you very much, Sioux Falls. And thank you." 
Sioux Falls is in South Dakota, not Iowa. 
Moments later, Zaun went on stage and told Trump, "You're in Sioux City, not Sioux Falls." 
Trump appeared confused during the exchange. "Oh it's, oh it's – is that right?" Trump asked, befuddled. 
He then went to the microphone, gathered his composure, and tried to pretend he didn't make the error. "So Sioux City," he addressed the crowd.
Meanwhile, Chutkan reimposed her gag order tonight:
The Corrupt Biden Administration just took away my First Amendment Right To Free Speech. NOT CONSTITUTIONAL! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
He’s under arrest and out on bond. His First Amendment rights are affected by those facts. I understand the small “c” conservatism of judges in matters where there is no comfortable precedent*, but I’m not sure the question is all that close.

It’s certainly worth finding out how a political candidate gets more leeway than any other criminal defendant. Sauce for the goose is a pretty fundamental legal principle. Why ex-presidents and presidential candidates get special privileges would be an interesting opinion to read, if anyone could manage to convince a majority to buy it.

And yes, since Barr is a witness, Trump violated the gag order about an hour after it was reimposed. Expect the DOJ to bring this to Chutkan’s attention, oh…tomorrow morning.

*Probably the last story from my tiny store of experiences as a lawyer. I needed to recover some property (not real property) for a client (a bank with a lien on it). I carefully researched the proper motion to file and soon found myself before a judge to get a signature on the order so I could get it executed. It was an unusual motion, which is to say out of the ordinary run. I had to do it because of circumstances, which I’ve forgotten (this was about 35 years ago).  I’ve even forgotten what the particular motion was. The judge was skeptical that I had made the right motion (and that he was signing the right order). His concern was both to do the right thing, and that I wasn’t asking for the wrong thing.

Like the rest of us, judges work from what they know; and nobody is quite sure what the law is in this situation. Time to find out, sez I.

People Matter


Jones: I want to let Speaker Johnson know.. when you put objects above people, we call that idolatry. And when you put the lives of people under money, and campaign contributions we call that idolatry so let's not use faith and false thoughts and prayers to gloss over this issue
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

-Exodus 20:3

When you think about it a minute, that’s a rather frightening assertion of otherness. Exodus goes on to name and claim things we usually think of as idols (and we usually think of them because of the follow on verses in Exodus):
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
We tend to treat that as a comforting limitation on v. 3, and then treat the whole matter as either a question of material (where graven images come from), or a precursor to Johannine exclusion (“no one comes to the Father except through me.”) But this verse is not the Shama (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One “), and rather than be limited to condemnation of materials or materialism (the latter another, proper, level of abstraction), it should be read at a very high level of abstraction.

Jesus says, when the apostles come and tell him what people are saying about him: “Who do you say I am?” He doesn’t mean Joshua (the non-Greek form of “Jesus”) bar Joseph, from Nazareth. The question raises a very high level of abstraction. It’s the same level of abstraction for what it means to have no other gods before God.

And the short answer is: because God is not you.
If you are, or have been, in love , you know (I hope, I trust) that the inspired days of love give way to the quotidian again, and sooner or later love has to be more than inspiration and infatuation. You have to learn to accept your beloved as other; as not you, but of deep and abiding importance to you. The more you accept them for who they are, the happier your relationship is, even though it remains a struggle.

“Israel” means “struggles with God.”

And if you are fortunate enough to have been blessed with children, your own or those in your extended family (nieces, nephews) , you know they are “other,” too; and ultimately must be allowed to be themselves, for good or ill. I look back on my life and can only imagine the pain I caused my parents because of my decisions, and I never went to jail or went broke or moved back in with them, or was an addict or an alcoholic. Nothing so public, but my choices didn’t always bear fruit, and as much as I worry about my daughter (whose path is much straighter than mine), I can only imagine how they worried. But they couldn’t take over; they couldn’t decide for me.

“Israel” means “struggles with God.”

It isn’t clear what “other gods” are because it can’t be clear. It’s a question of relationship, not law. Societies need laws to order civic relationships. The relationship with God, in modern society, is a personal matter. But if you profess to trust the living God, the God if Israel, you cannot then profess to know the mind of God, or to know that your desires, are God’s desires.

And yes, that certainly goes for me as much as it does for thee.

How, then, do you identify idolatry? Very carefully; but from the understanding that God cares for people; not things, not ideas; except insofar as they serve, but don’t oppress, people. Jesus says the Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. And making the law of Moses a burden, rather than a liberation, is twisting the purpose of the law away from its intended purpose. And abortion? Placing the unborn above the mother, reducing her to merely a womb? Where is the justification for that in the law and the prophets and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The original idea of “husband” was responsibility, not blunt authority. The husband took care, sought the best for what was husbanded.  But even by Jesus’ time that was perverted and distorted and what was a responsibility became more about power and authority, and in Jesus, as Paul said, (and so in his teachings), there is  “neither male nor female.”

And yet we insist women cannot choose, only the law can; and only the right law, written only by the right men. What idolatry is this?


Motion Practice Is Trial Practice

Delay, disinform, then dismiss.
That may be the Trump strategy, but it’s not what is going on in DC. Florida is another matter, largely because Loose Cannon is utterly incompetent and so far over her head bottom is up. Way up.

What’s going on in DC is the reason this trial didn’t start in October, and a lot of what trial judges actually do (they don’t sit for that many trials): motion practice.

Now, granted, I have no real criminal practice experience, and no expertise in First Amendment jurisprudence, but I’m fairly confident Trump isn’t laying any serious groundwork for an appeal that’s going to warm the cockles of the hearts of 5 Supremes:
Trump intends to take this gag order to a partisan Supreme Court where several Justices are already raring to forcibly protect the kind of violent threats that Trump specializes in. Heck, if Trump succeeds as well as he might, his appeal of this gag could solve the problem with the “mob” part of the indictment which I’ve noted.
The post referenced in the last sentence is the one I started with. I’ll be referencing both of them here.

But while the Supremes have proven themselves open to cases where football coaches were not fired for not being banned from praying in public, they’ve shown no interest in ever saving Trump’s electoral bacon, and I don’t see them pulling his criminal fat out of the fire. Not without better arguments than his trial lawyers are making.

I will agree Trump’s appellate lawyers seem slightly more competent in framing legal arguments, but appeals courts look askance at arguments not presented first to the trial courts. That’s one reason Trump has filed so many Motions to Dismiss (MTD).  He wants them all in the record for an appeal (There is a certain amount of appellate practice from a final judgment that is “throw it against the wall.”) Appeals are efforts to correct errors in the trial court, not just go above them and see what else works. So Trump’s appeals are constrained by the arguments made before Chutkan, in this case.

And those arguments suck.

For one thing, a Motion to Dismiss must accept all the allegations in the indictment as true, and still establish there is no crime involved, or insufficient evidence thereof. Usually such motions are filed after all discovery has been done; and seldom do they succeed. But to return to my first point, such motions are as common as fleas on a dog. It would practically be malpractice not to file one. It’s not a delay tactic, it’s trial practice. Unless you’re a trial lawyer, or work for one, you’ve never seen a trial except on TeeVee, which bears as much resemblance to reality as does a fable with talking animals acting like humans.

So basically, with the exclusions I mentioned, everything you know is wrong. About trials, anyway.

Marcy Wheeler, God love her, is not a trial lawyer.
Again, even if this goes to trial in March as currently scheduled, Trump needs only persuade one voter. If he can use these court filings as a means to delay that trial and as campaign props to win the election, these weak points won’t matter.
These motions aren’t likely to delay anything.

The question before the court is that question of the allegations, not when Mike Pence quit the race and Trump filed his response to the DOJ motion to enforce the gag order. Motion practice, even when it is about facts at issue, is always first and foremost about legal issues. The law on Motions to Dismiss (or Strike, a separate Motion Trump filed) is fairly clear, as is First Amendment law on incitement. And if memory serves, the DOJ didn’t charge incitement, probably for that reason.  Trump, IOW, is spraying squid ink, something even the Supremes won’t be impressed with. Creating some new First Amendment doctrine for some clown who’s already disappeared from view is a very different matter from bail in out Trump in criminal court, especially on an issue the government didn’t charge.

The question before Chutkan is the sufficiency (first) of the Motions. Creating challenges to charges not made doesn’t create a record for appeal that is any more persuasive there than in the trial court.

I’m getting really tired of the extra-legal legal analysis coming from non-lawyers and lawyers who are just paid now to have opinions that draw attention. There’s nothing unusual going on in Chutkan’s court except that such a high-profile defendant has some very bad lawyering being done for him.

And the fact a lot of people think that since he hasn’t been tried and convicted within 90 minutes, it’s a gross miscarriage of justice.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Clients Are The Worst

 I’ve heard clients blow up like this in a lawyer’s office, or in the hallway after a hearing, but never where the judge could hear/read it:

“My daughter, Ivanka, was released from this Fake Letitia James case by the Court of Appeals, but this Trump Hating, Unhinged Judge, who ruled me guilty before this Witch Hunt Trial even started, couldn’t care less about the fact that he was overturned. I also won on Appeal on Statute of Limitations, but he refuses to accept their decision. I truly believe he is CRAZY, but certainly, at a minimum, CRAZED in his hatred of me." 
He then added, "This case should have never started, but now must be dismissed. Financial Statements were LOW, NOT HIGH, had a 100% Disclaimer Clause, Banks were fully paid, “on time, on schedule,” with never even a minor default, there was NO VICTIM, EXCEPT ME. Any other Judge in the Country would have thrown this case out on day one."
Mostly because I never knew a client this stupid!

Only Things Matter?

 Guns matter more than people:

Grant Stinchfield: “The mainstream media welcomes these mass shootings … they encourage deranged lunatics to go on rampages like this. Because it allows them to push their gun control agenda.”



Friday, October 27, 2023

Or Your Lyin’ Eyes 👀

Trump filed a “Motion to Dismiss” in the DC case, and recently a response to the DOJ response (ed. note: this is all normal pre-trial practice, not “delay tactics.” Just because you never see motion practice in the movies doesn’t mean it isn’t a major part of trial procedure.). The thrust of the argument is that everything Trump did was within “course and scope” of the duties of his office, and so immunized from prosecution UNLESS he was first impeached and removed from office by the Senate.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The argument there, in a nutshell, is that impeachment prevents us from having a king (and here I thought it was the “take care” clause (which includes “taking care” to follow Art. 2, sec. 1, clause 2) because we can evict a President. But like a king, the President enjoys lese majeste and the droit de seigneur; unless, I guess, we have our own Cromwell who cuts the President’s head off. One begins to understand why Trump makes his lawyers still use the title “President” before his name in court.

The argument is that this language in Art. 1, sec. 3:

but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
means the POTUS is only liable after impeachment. Which, frankly, means removing the word “nevertheless” from that sentence. It’s pretty clear the intent of “nevertheless” is that impeachment is not a non-judicial judicial process resulting in a verdict that is stare decisis or double jeopardy to subsequent civil or criminal charges.

Except Trump wants it read as if that’s EXACTLY what it means.

It’s the “who you gonna believe? Me, or your Lyin’ eyes?,” argument.

But wait, there’s more! Trump argues that Nixon wasn’t prosecuted because…well, here, I’ll just quote it:
9 The Government relies on President Ford’s pardon of President Nixon, arguing that it presupposes that Nixon could have been prosecuted for acts he committed as President. Doc. 109, at 18. Not so. The fact that Nixon was never prosecuted—despite widespread public outrage and compelling evidence of wrongdoing—provides compelling evidence of the strength of the historical tradition against prosecuting former Presidents for their official acts, not its weakness. Moreover, this argument overlooks that much of the conduct at issue in the Watergate scandal—such as ordering the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters—may well have been purely private acts, not shielded by immunity at all, thus necessitating a pardon. (Both of these points apply equally to President Clinton’s admitted perjury in the Paula Jones litigation, for which he was never prosecuted. Response, at 19.)
First, the response to DOJ’s argument is itself proof of the government’s point (Trump’s lawyers really suck!). Nixon was never prosecuted because Ford pardoned him practically the moment he was sworn in (I remember it well. I’m guessing Trump’s lawyers weren’t born yet.) The rest of that response collapses like a house of cards,l because of that error, though emptywheel sets the cards ablaze by noticing the argument that Nixon’s actions instigating Watergate were private, not official, and so not protected from prosecution. And Trump’s actions alleged in the DC indictment are, therefore, “official” how, exactly?

You can’t cut the baloney so thin it has only one side.

And that’s when it struck me: Trump is making Nixon’s argument. Nixon famously told David Frost, from the safety of Ford’s pardon: “When the President does it, it’s not illegal.”

Clarence Thomas might like that argument; but I don’t think even Alito would.

Trump’s lawyers really do suck.

According To The Fruit Of Their Doings

Speaker of the House Johnson says “the problem with guns” in America is the human heart; not guns, and this is not the time to talk about legislation.

Johnson also says his worldview comes from the Bible.
The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-- 
who can understand it? 
I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, 
to give to all according to their ways, 
according to the fruit of their doings. 
Jeremiah 17:9-10
Johnson is a legislator, not a pastor. And that sounds like a formula for legislation to me, especially since Jeremiah’s context in that passage was the law of Moses.

So maybe the Speaker should re-examine the source of his worldview. He wants to play “pastor.” Then act like one. Take on the responsibility instead of hiding behind the authority.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Which Part Do You Give To God?

 Which part?

Speaker Mike Johnson tonight: “Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
The part about caring for the widow and the orphan? The part about letting justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream? The part about the kings who took care of the poor, and then all was well with Israel and Judah? The part about how those who are poor and hungry are blessed? And about how you are your brother’s keeper, and whatever you do for the least of people, you do for God? The part about how justice comes from the bottom up, not the top down? The part about how it’s people that matter, not ideas or things? The part about giving Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God, God’s?

That worldview? The worldview that has nothing to do with whether or not Genesis is literal history (it isn’t, and until the early 20th century, nobody really thought it was)? That has nothing to do with Noah either actually existing or building an ark? (Funny how nobody builds theme parks about Abraham and how many times he passed Sarah off as his sister to save himself; or maybe a ride replaying the events in Moriah. Or a theme park about Moses and the exodus from Egypt (try finding the “Red Sea” in Egypt. Go on, I’ll wait. If the scripture is “literal,” where did it go?) The nativities of Matthew and Luke are literally irreconcilable. Matthew has the Holy Family flee to Egypt for years; Luke returns them to Nazareth, having satisfied the census that left no trace in the historical record.

That worldview, that the scriptures written by innumerable hands over centuries of time and collected between covers from a variety of manuscripts and texts; assembled, in the case of the “New Testament” certainly (the Hebrew Scriptures are primarily the Masoretic text and the Septuagint, and Protestants and Catholics don’t even agree on what books should be in there), literally cobbled together from a wide variety of copies.

Your worldview, in other words, is brought to the scriptures, and you imagine it’s God’s, too. Micah tells us the Lord God requires three simple things of us: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

What part of thinking your worldview is also God’s, sounds like humility to you?

It’s Good To Be An Untouchable Supreme Court Justice

With lifetime tenure ending only with death, resignation, or impeachment (the last having never happened in the history of the Constitution).

Every picture tells a story.  This one tells the story of the corruption of Clarence Thomas, and of the Roberts Court.
The fullest accounting yet shows how Thomas has secretly reaped the benefits from a network of wealthy and well-connected patrons that is far more extensive than previously understood.
No shit, Sherlock.
During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events and sent their private jets to fetch him — including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It’s a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood. 
Like clockwork, Thomas’ leisure activities have been underwritten by benefactors who share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence
It’s good to be an untouchable government employee with almost unparalleled power, answerable to no one.

Ain’t representative government grand? Especially if you get all the benefits of a singular government position, and none of the personal responsibility for your grift.
“In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” said Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served for years on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
It’s good to be a Supreme.
The total value of the undisclosed trips they’ve given Thomas since 1991, the year he was appointed to the Supreme Court, is difficult to measure. But it’s likely in the millions.
Nobody could have foreseen that absolute lack of accountability would lead to absolute corruption. I mean, it’s not like we have a system of government set up to investigate and prevent such things! A government of laws and not of men! Or a government with 9 people who decide what the laws ultimately are, and which one do, or don’t, apply to them.

Right? Checks and balances all the way up and down, right?

Whatever did happen to that investigation into the leak of the Dobbs decision? I’m sure we can trust the same process will investigate Clarence Thomas and get to the bottom of this. After all, separation of powers, amirite?*

*I’m sure if I looked, I’d find that doctrine at the bottom of the argument for irrevocable lifetime tenure for Art. III judges. As established by the Court. Hem-hem.


 Dear Lord, protect us from cloth-heads and idiots who think they lead in Your Holy Name, but care more about things and ideas than they do about people.

Mike Johnson, the new speaker, makes statement on Maine shooting. 
“This is a dark time in America. …Prayer is appropriate in a time like this, that the evil can end and this senseless violence can stop.“ 
Doesn’t take questions or say what actions Congress may take
Even the Pharisees weren’t this bad. Even the Romans provided better order and safety for the empire.


Let all the people say:


Because When I Hunt…

 …I don’t need to able to recognize what I shot when I get through with it.

Currently there is an arrest warrant for eight counts of murder, for Mr. Card. And the reason it is eight counts is because ten people have not yet been identified.”
Or even pick up that many pieces.

The God-given 2nd amendment protects our right to fight off government tyranny and blow wild animals into fragments and shoot up our fellow citizens ‘til we get caught.  FREEEEEDDDUUUUUMMMMBBBBB!


Trump is degenerating in public in real time.  Maggie Haberman reported accurately on his courtroom antics, including storming out of the courtroom, and he couldn’t handle the truth!

Writer Maggot Hagerman of the Failing New York Times wrote almost her entire FAKE story today about the Trump Hating Judge’s Gag Order (They love to silence me!), rather than the Racist Attorney General’s STAR witness chocking like a dog on the Witness Stand (Perry Mason?), and admitting that I NEVER asked him to do anything wrong," Trump posted on Truth Social. "He also admitted that he lied to Congress Under Oath, AGAIN, brand new charges. THAT MEANS THEY NO LONGER HAVE A WITNESS, OR A CASE." 
"She also failed to report that the Trump Hating Judge refuses to respect or accept the Appeals Court decision reversing him, a first!" Trump added. "Maggot should focus her energies on Corrupt Prosecutors and Judges, whose hatred and bias is so great that they are unable to make a fair and reasonable decision. New York is crime ridden and dying, but I will save it in 2024… It can’t come too fast!"
He's already at the Mortimer Duke stage. By the time they start shutting down his company and seizing his cash he won’t have any outrageous claims left to sputter.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

 But deliver us from evil; or just, you know, arrogance:

Appearing on Real America's Voice today, Burchett said that he and the other 8 Republican representatives led by Matt Gaetz who ousted Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker's Chair became the "Hated 8" to their colleagues, but they were carrying out a mission from God. 
Burchett said he typically sits next to Gaetz and the others in the second to last row of the House chamber, which he calls "Sinner's Row." But he said that God was "using 8 reprobates" to ultimately work to install His servant Mike Johnson to the Speakership.
I’m an ordained minister who was actually called by churches, which we all presumed was acting on a call from God; and we were all a lot more humble about it than this.

Honestly, laypeople are always the most baptized of heathens, and even Protestant laypeople are more Catholic than the Pope.

I’ve seen more than a few “calls by God” go magnificently astray, always due to those who think they divine the “true nature” of the call better than the rest of us. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Some people just think those hands are theirs, and never notice.

And the rest of us clean up the mess they make.
If you can't see the hand of God in this, then you're just not looking."
As I say, they usually can’t; because they can’t identify God’s hand unless they see their own.

The Poor Table

 Sound familiar?

“See, First Amendment, just say First Amendment, free speech,” prosecutors cite Taylor Taranto in the footnote, prowling Obama’s neighborhood after having been sent there by a Trump Truth Social post.
The context is a DOJ filing responding to a Trump protest to Chutkan’s gag order. Taylor Taranto was arrested for stalking Obama’s neighborhood after Trump posted the address on Truth Social. Taranto filmed himself talking to Secret Service officers and, he bragged to the camera, turning them away with the magic words “First Amendment.”

Yeah, that didn’t really work for him. To cut to the chase:
Both Trump’s motion to dismiss for absolute immunity and for Constitutional grounds ignore the actual charges and overt acts of which he is accused and instead tell a tale of protected speech. His motion to dismiss on statutory grounds, meanwhile, completely ignores how he mobilized the mob and thereby successfully obstructed the vote certification (which, as noted, DOJ had laid out in this underlying dispute), choosing instead to ask that those allegations be stricken from the indictment and then, assuming that will work, claiming that nothing he did actually did obstruct the vote certification. 
That is, in over 130 pages of filings attempting to make his prosecution go away, Trump tried to simply remove all overt acts showing how he sent the mob on January 6 from his indictment, rather than contesting the veracity of those allegations.
Which sounds a lot like the argument Kise made over Trump’s second fine. Then again, Trump is completely disconnected from reality:
Taking to Truth Social, Trump first wrote, "The Attorney General case against me in New York State just lost its STAR witness, SleazeBag former attorney Michael Cohen (he was disbarred for lying, and more!), who admitted to lying in this case and clearly stated that I did nothing wrong."
The former president followed that claim with, "The unhinged Judge, a highly political and fully biased Trump Hater, refused to dismiss this HOAX of a case, and has lost all CREDIBILITY. Likewise, he refuses to accept the decision of the Appeals Court, a first in New York. He should be ashamed of himself for having ruled against me before the trial even started, and for not dismissing this RIGGED WITCH HUNT now that the facts are known and that their star witness has been totally discredited, actually ADMITTING TO LYING." 
"It is a Travesty of Justice for all to see. Businesses are fleeing “the least business friendly State in the Nation!” Racist Attorney General Letitia James should focus on record setting Murder and other Violent Crimes, something she cares, or knows, nothing about!" he added.
Why shouldn’t his lawyers be, too?

He’s fading. He didn’t even work in “stollen” or “Petty Mason.”

Pounding On The Table

 What lawyers do when they’ve got nothing else:

These perceptions of the defendant are from what he was observing in open court," said Kise, according to Law360's Stewart Bishop, who posted the quote on the social media site previously known as Twitter. “He’s entitled to comment fairly on what he [perceived in open court." 
"The notion that he cannot comment on the fairness of the proceeding...is constitutionally infirm," Kise continued. 
“I don't think it’s infringing on anyone’s first amendment rights to protect my staff,” Justice Arthur Engoron replied. "The great irony here is, on the one hand, you’re saying that Mr. Trump was not referring to my law clerk, and then you make this whole big deal about [the clerk’s actions]."
That’s what you call a very weak argument. And I don’t mean the legal argument because…well, there isn’t one.
[The judge] denied the motion Thursday to reconsider the fine, and Kise said Trump's team would appeal.
Well, as long as you’re spending other people’s money, right? Paying the fine would be cheaper.



new Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced, "Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear, the people's house is back in business."
Well, not until next week:
The House GOP Leadership have made the following changes to the House Floor schedule: 
Members are advised that votes are now expected in the House next week from Wednesday, November 1, 2023 = Friday, November 3, 2023. 
Members are further advised that votes are also now expected from Monday, November 6, 2023 - Thursday, November 9, 2023. 
First votes on November 1, 2023 and November 6, 2023 are expected at 6:30 p.m. 
Members are further advised that last votes for this week are expected to take place tomorrow, Thursday, October 26, 2023. No votes are expected in the House on Friday, October 27, 2023.
Gotta go home and celebrate Hallowe’en, I guess.
By the time House Republicans decide to return to work, they will have spent the entire month of October alternating between many days off and showing up occasionally to fight with each other.
Fighting with each other is not the Hallowe’en spirit! They’ve got to take some time off to recapture that!
Gaetz: Johnson is a Louisiana man and we’re going to bayou hours. So people are going to actually have to work on Mondays and Fridays. We may have to stay over some weekends
Starting after taking the long weekend for Hallowe’en?

Bizarrely Delusional

 Trump yesterday in the New York courthouse:

"He's a convicted felon, for lying. He went to jail, for lying. And this is their only witness. When you think about it, it's pretty amazing."
This is the fourth week of trial. A trial is nothing but witness testimony. Alan Weisselberg has testified. There have been four weeks of witnesses before Cohen even took the stand. Trump had to be admonished from the bench for his courtroom reactions to some of the witnesses.

“Their only witness”?

What the hell is he talking about?

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

I Like Our Odds

 I really do.

A sage Dem texts, basically: Repubs are gonna elevate a speaker who tried to overthrow the election and backs an abortion ban - the two issues we won on in 2022 
“What are they thinking ?”
Pretty sure “thinking” is no longer involved.

Real Life? Or The Movies?

 So this happened today:

It was confirmed a few moments later when CNN aired footage of Trump walking out of the courtroom and bellowing to the press, "We won the trial. And the judge should end this trial immediately. Thank you."
That followed the lawyer for Eric and Jr. questioning Michael Cohen and immediately moving for a directed verdict.

Now, to begin with, a directed verdict applies to a jury trial. The judge takes the decision out of the hands of the jury and directs them (literally) what verdict to reach. It’s not an autocratic usurpation, it’s a form of summary judgment because the facts are so thoroughly proven, or the prosecution/plaintiff has so thoroughly failed to meet their burden of proof, that the case must be dismissed as a matter of law.

The lawyers apparently thought they had that after they were through with Cohen.
Rubin pointed out that Trump family attorney Cliff Robert tried and failed in big screen fashion to secure what is called a "directed verdict" -- essentially urging the judge to make a hasty decision in favor of Trump solely based on Cohen's testimony on the witness stand. 
“Absolutely denied,” Engoron quipped. “This case has evidence, an incredible amount—evidence all over the place…That’s absurd, Mr. Robert.” 
"He moved for what's called a directed verdict -- that's asking the judge, basically, truncate the trial, and end it now, fine for us," Rubin said on the show.  "And he didn't do that." 
"But that's what they expected to happen. And they honestly seemed surprised." 
While team Trump was taken aback by the denial, Rubin noted how Trump himself "seemed just downright angry." 
"It was definitely like television or film," she added.
What were they thinking? Trump, as usual, said it out loud:
The New York State Attorney Generals case against me is DEAD, but the Radical Left Judge REFUSES to end it," Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social Wednesday night, referring to state AG Letitia James and Judge Arthur Engoron. "He just can’t let it go." 
He continued to rail against Michael Cohen, his former fixer, who had taken the stand to testify for the prosecution. 
"Their 'star' witness lied like a dog on the stand today, and then admitted that I did NOTHING WRONG," Trump wrote in the post. "A total SleazeBag."
Yes, the lawyers honestly believed the cross-examination of Cohen would end the trial. Trump calling Cohen the “star witness” gives the game away. Like a movie, Trump & Co. thought the whole trial came down to the “star” bad guy. Take him out in the third act, and the movie is over with a happy ending. The absurdity of that was summed up by the judge:
“There is enough evidence in this case to fill this courtroom.”
So Trump decided to appeal to a higher power:
"The Governor should get involved," he wrote, calling out the mishandling of his case. "Election Interference by my Political Opponent!"
And he stormed out of the courtroom like a…well, exactly like a petulant child. After all, the judge fined him another $10,000 today. Trump probably thought the dismissal of the case would void his fine, too.

I’d put money on it.

Let The Hand-Wringing Begin

We’re done for! We’re done for!!
Interesting," said anchor Ari Melber. "Let me ask you this. When you see Matt Gaetz, who seems to happy with this outcome, does that suggest that MAGA, which faces some vulnerability on being perceived as being too extreme, has moved the speakership and thus the majority to the right?"
Wait, what? Now McCarthy was a centrist? Oh, sorry, I interrupted.
"Absolutely," confirmed Komanduri. "I wish I could say Matt Gaetz lost, MAGA lost, but no, they won and America has lost. He has put in a speaker that will do Donald Trump's bidding. Get ready. We'll have a government shutdown. We're going to shut down aid to Ukraine to help Trump's major benefactor, Vladimir Putin. That's what's going to occur." 
"And do not be fooled by the Halloween costume you saw on display today," added Komanduri. "Matt Gaetz as reasonable, bipartisan, centrist, anti-corruption guy. That's not who he is. That is not who Mike Johnson is. Mike Johnson is every bit the flamethrower that Jim Jordan is, he just wears a pair of glasses and dons a Clark Kent disguise."

Or, maybe not:

The election of Mike Johnson was not a victory for MAGA. It’s a setback people. 
They couldn’t elect a Speaker for three weeks, demonstrating how feckless, weak and inept they are. 
If you felt they were in disarray yesterday but now feel down because they elected a right-wing nut-job - Take some self inventory. 
Trumps a defeated man on the ropes. Mike Johnson is the face of Congressional Republicans. Republicans are losing local elections as fast as they’re coming up. 
No attack ads can define Republican extremism more than the MAGA poster child they just chose to defend their 5 seat majority. 
Oh and George Santos is gonna be expelled.
Gonna be a fun learning curve for a speaker with no experience raising money plus no experience managing a big staff plus no experience negotiating legislation plus no experience leading the caucus, luckily he's got a long glide path with nothing going on to acclimate himself.
By my calculations, it would take 3 Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and fund Ukraine. If they shut down the government, it screws every Republican in the House, and I’ll warrant at least 3 of them don’t want that on their résumés next November.

Besides, what was the House accomplishing before this? It may be true McCarthy was booted because of the debt ceiling vote, but that wasn’t the vote on the debt ceiling. That was a vote the Democrats joined in.

I Understand The Most Important Power Of The Speaker

 …is fundraising, because it buys loyalty.

This campaign cycle Mike Johnson has raised $548K. He’s never raised more than $1.5m in a full cycle. He’s had a leadership PAC for over six years, during which time he’s raised less than $500K. 
He’s essentially never raised money, for himself or for anyone else.
Most of whatever work the House gets done is going to rely, as before, on the Democrats and a handful of the least insane Republicans.

You Were Expecting Hakeem Jeffries?

Meidas Touch:
House Republicans finally put an end to two weeks of humiliating dysfunction and chaos by electing Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) Speaker of the House. 
The election came less than 24 hours after the House GOP nominated Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) to be Speaker. Emmer was then almost immediately stabbed in the back by Donald Trump in a Truth Social post, with Trump calling him a RINO who "never respected the power of a Trump endorsement," after Emmer had sought that endorsement earlier this week. 
Emmer subsequently dropped out of the race, paving the way for Johnson, a MAGA dark horse whose biggest qualification apparently is his loyalty to Trump and his belief in election denial conspiracy theories.
Quelle Surprise!
Mike Johnson's victory is another example how autocratic forces win — they wear down the opposition until they appease. That is what they just did here.
Did  someone think autocrats were a minority of the GOP House?

This will be showing up in Biden-Harris tweets any minute now:
According to this Times story [Speaker] Johnson cohosts a podcast with his wife where they frequently talk about universal abortion bans. so i'd imagine quite a few oppo researchers are cranking up their Apple podcast and Spotify apps atm.
I understand Johndon wants a short term debt ceiling extension, to January or so, and to return to regular order and get the spending bills passed.. IOW, the same things that got McCarthy fired.

That’s when we’ll know the House has returned to normal brokenness, from this period of extreme brokenness.


And a reminder, that while Johnson wrote an amicus brief that joined Ken Paxton’s plea to the Supremes to save Donald Trump: he lost.
No," President Biden says when asked if he is worried that newly-elected House Speaker Mike Johnson would attempt to overturn the 2024 election results if he's reelected, similar to Johnson's efforts in 2020. 
"I understand the Constitution," Biden adds.
Victory in 2024 is all but assured:
At least Republicans finally have a party platform. Force women to give birth to save Social Security. Christian nationalism personified.
Just not for Republicans.

Suddenly I Don’t Care…

Via Professor Vladeck:
The Johnson-led brief didn’t just “express … concern with the integrity of the 2020 election” it asked #SCOTUS to hold that the results in GA, MI, WI, and PA were “unconstitutional.” Someone who would advance that argument as late as December 10 has no business being Speaker.

This would also be a good reason:

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Johnson attacks Roe v. Wade, insisting that if only women were compelled to bring more "able-bodied workers" into the world, Republicans wouldn’t need to slash Social Security and Medicare.
Oh, well:
Republicans can elect their Christian nationalist, forced birther, anti-gay, social security cutting, election denier as Speaker. Democrats can make sure many of them lose their jobs next year because of it, while making his tenure very brief.
emptywheel thinks these antics are laying the groundwork for Trump to win the election in the House in 2025. Without a victor from the EC, that would require a signed challenge by 1/5th of the House and the Senate, which won’t be the same Congress as currently seated. And the way things are going, won’t be a more MAGA Congress in 2025, either.

I’m Not Sure $5000 Was Enough Deterrent

Open mouth, insert..,
Trump told the press gathered in the courthouse that the judge was going to find him guilty, "because this judge is a very partisan judge with a person who's very partisan sitting alongside ... perhaps even more partisan than him." 
Trump was clearly referring to the Judge's law clerk in violation of the gag order. Trump's lawyers claimed that he was talking about Michael Cohen, which is ridiculous. The judge then said he was taking it under advisement and reserving ruling on what to do next. He certainly didn't seem to buy the bogus explanation.
There’s always a bit more:
Judge Engoron also repeatedly ordered Trump and his lawyers to stop holding impromptu "press conferences" inside the courthouse, which is not permitted. Trump continues to violate that every day as well.
Of course , all Trump is doing is pissing off the man who is going to decide how much to milky him for. Violations of the gag order are almost secondary, although the judge is right to enforce the one in effect.

Watch this space.

Reading (Or Not) The Room

 I cross-examined a witness once in an administrative hearing:

Habba to Cohen: “You make money off President Trump?” “I make money off my story.” “The story is about who, Mr. Cohen?” “The story is about me,” Cohen shoots back. 
Habba asked how much money Cohen made from his book, Disloyal. Cohen does not recall. She then asks whether his income from his books are on his tax returns and tries to ask his annual income. Engoron rejects that as irrelevant. 
Between Cohen’s resistance to her questions and the AG’s objections, Habba is having a much harder time establishing a rhythm in today’s cross than in her first 45 minutes yesterday. 
But the thrust of the cross is much less about directly impugning substance of Cohen’s direct and far more about slashing and burning Cohen as a person. 
Habba is painting him not only as a felon and a liar but also 1) a spurned aspirant for a White House job 2) consumed by his animosity for Trump 3) who nonetheless earns his livelihood through his prior association with Trump. 
None of that is exactly new, however. As a colleague said to me yesterday, even a casual reader of political news could have come to those conclusions about Cohen. 
And even accepting all of that as true, it is possible, if not probable, that Judge Engoron will accept the bulk of Cohen’s testimony as true. 
Even Engoron seems a little exhausted, noting we’ve established Cohen makes money by talking and writing about Trump.
I’d never done such a hearing before, and I went in pretty much on the strength of what my client had told me (clients are TERRIBLE sources of information), and little other background. I should note that civil discovery is quite extensive and there are few surprises in testimony. The adage is “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to; but I went in blind.

Fortunately the witness wasn’t easy mark and accustomed to a far lass rigorous examination than I gave her. It was a state agency hearing (and I remember almost nothing else about it), and the state’s lawyer was shaken by my approach. He tried to tell me I didn’t need to handle this like a jury trial, but all I remember now of what he said was an idea these proceedings were not in a courtroom and my approach might not work with the hearing officer.

Either way, the next witness saw me coming and was more than able to riposte my questions. Which was more than enough for my client. He though I did a “brilliant” job with the first witness (I didn’t; says never sure I actually made an points with the hearing officer), and that I wimped out in the second witness. He fired me, sure he could do better himself.

Legal practice is like that, more often than not.

Anyway, I’ve never been quite sure I was reading the room correctly; nor that my defense wouldn’t have prevailed (I’m pretty sure his didn’t. Clients never understand what they think they do. Read “legal Twitter;” it’s full of legal experts with no expertise). But day one played to the client, and day two didn’t. For client, that’s all that mattered.

Trump forces his lawyers to play to him. Tearing down Cohen as a person plays to Trump’s ego, but even destroying Cohen’s testimony entirely probably wouldn’t collapse the mountain of evidence already presented by the state. Cohen is there because he has important inside information, but he’s really just another brick in the wall. This portion of the case will neither rise nor fall on Cohen’s trustworthiness.

Habba is, at least in part, doing what she needs to do. Lisa Rubin thinks Habba did better yesterday than today. Maybe Habba had an easier course yesterday; maybe she’s off her game today. But it doesn’t sound like she’s talking to the judge; who really is the only person that matters.

Trump may think Cohen’s credibility is shattered at the end of the day. What matters, what the judge thinks.

And no, it doesn’t help that the judge and his clerk were whispering and rolling their eyes during her cross.
As Trump’s mouthpiece, Cohen mimicked the boss’s own penchant for hyperbole. He once told Forbes Trump’s net worth was understated because it did not include his brand value or the value of his trademark, “one of the most valuable marks ever created.” 
The irony of Habba herself now often aping this method of speaking might be lost on her. But it’s not lost on many of the journalists assembled, this one included.

These Are Not The Defenses They Are Looking For

 This is not the legal defense Trump thinks it is:

I've spoken to Mark Meadows many, many times over the years, and he strongly believed the election was rigged," Trump said before walking into his New York fraud trial.
Nor is this a legal offense:
On her social-media accounts, Powell has continued to push claims that the 2020 election was rigged and that prosecutors in Georgia who brought the criminal case against her were politically motivated. The newsletter published by her dark-money group has shared articles arguing the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, "extorted" her guilty plea.
It does call into question Powell’s value as a witness. But I suspect Georgia was happy to clear out the underbrush by getting her out of the way. “Flipping” on Trump will simply mean reporting truthfully about what Powell knows. Her opinions about the election outcome are irrelevant, but might keep her from being called to testify, at worst.

Mainly, believing the 2020 election was “rigged” does not justify extra-legal actions of the type Powell has plead guilty to committing. If that was a sound defense, she’d have gone to trial. Yes, Powell can take the stand and say her guilty plea was “extorted,” but then her testimony at the hearing where the plea was entered will be read back to her (the hearing where she said she knew what she was doing and did it freely). The kind of thing prosecutors generally do with witnesses who have accepted plea deals in return for testimony.

In the end, it isn’t what Powell thinks about what she did, or what Meadows said about the election (Trump’s statements are irrelevant; he’s never going to waive the 5th and testify about what Meadows said). It’s about what was done. Trump could think he was saving the Republic; but once his court challenges were exhausted, so were his avenues to challenge the outcome. The efforts he’s been charged criminally for were criminal: period. Whether he can be proven guilty of those offenses is another matter. But the defenses he’s offering, are not defenses at all.

And what Sidney Powell is saying now doesn’t really obviate the fact that she plead guilty to six criminal counts, rather than go to trial. She blinked, and now she’s trying to say the sun was in her eyes. That doesn’t change her guilty plea.