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DECLINE AND FALL? IN 1776, the year our American Republic was born, English author Edward Gibbon published his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
Today, there has been a renewed interest in Gibbon. Does the decline of the Roman Empire hold lessons for us today? Are we the modern day Roman Empire?
Some argue that America today is decadent, an overly-indulgent society which favors the wealthy and powerful despite being on the brink of economic/political collapse.
What is their argument?
One might begin with explanations for the fall of Rome. Historians have suggested:
- Invasions by Germanic barbarians
- The sack of Rome
- The coming of Islam
- General lack of will in the people
- Decadence of the ruling classes
- Growing influence of Christianity
- Excessive taxation to support the military
- Unsound economic policies
- Crop failures
Adding to the list, an American anthropologist named Joseph Tainter has suggested a modern take – as societies become increasingly advanced, their resources can no longer accommodate a viable, sustainable society.
Progressives sometimes compare the decline of Rome to what happened during the Trump administration.
They argue somewhat as follows:
Our nation faced “sedition and insurrection” contesting the inauguration of a new, legitimate leader.
How was this done? Like the failed emperors of Rome, President Trump supposedly did away with “adults in the room.” Soon, only sycophants were left.
With the “adults” gone, he next fought with a handful of heroic bureaucrats. Talented civil servants gave the Roman Empire – as well as the British and American public servants – staying power, solid administration, and competence. Such individuals arguably could hold the rickety scaffolding together. Addressing this, Trump sneered at the entrenched bureaucrats (and perhaps unfriendly media) by calling them the “deep state.”
Another aspect of Rome – and perhaps of Pres. Trump – was embracing “alternative facts.” Arguably, the administration relied on falsehoods, giving life to conspiracy theories of a stacked national election.
The argument continues that the United States is following the dangerous declining path of Rome. Like Rome, our Congress has ceded its authority to the Chief Executive across a wide front, relinquishing any claim that the laws are created by “the people’s house.”
Furthermore, in Rome, the argument goes, the Caesars maintained the fiction of a Republican government. The Senate was castrated, engaging in pretenses of freedom long after it ceased to play an important role. This is happening here and now, many argue
Meanwhile, those ambitious for government advancement protected their positions by abject subservience to this President.
Historian Ramsay MacMullen has distilled the long arc of the Roman empire into three words: FEWER HAVE MORE.” This, some fear, is where America finds itself today.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS. There is one particular source for the following sayings who was it?
- set your teeth on edge
- good riddance
- full circle
- did as a doornail
- wild goose chase
Answers at the end of this blog
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MORON AND AN IDIOT moron is somebody who’s driving 10 miles slower than you. An idiot is one who is driving 10 miles faster.
ARCHAEOLOGY AT FACE VALUE . Archaeology magazine explains how researchers, using special camera filters under different light wavelengths – identify pigments and binding agents. As a result today’s viewers can see pretty close to what the original looked like.
ANCIENT DAYS? A recent TV advertisement enthusiastically notes that a certain plumber has been in business for 20 years. Not very impressive compared to a sign at the ancient church in Exning England. It proclaims “divine worship has been held on the church site since 1520.”
NFL ENDORSEMENTS? Recently seen on TV – advertisements touting to products which are said to be “endorsed” by the players of the NFL – farm tractors and spiced rum.
SHORTEST TRIAL IN HISTORY? North Carolina Prof. Bart Ehrman relates what he claims is the shortest trial in history – a Christian persecuted by the Roman state.
- Are you a bishop?
- I am
- You are no longer – execute him.
ANSWERS FOR HISTORY BUFFS. These were all sayings of William Shakespeare.
A Good Friend Writes……..
Years ago I would have struggled with the God of Spinoza. However, as I have gotten older and learned more about life I find the God of Spinoza very appealing. I love a God of love and grace who gives us room to grow and even make mistakes. I love a God who encourages us to enjoy nature and to build community with others instead of hiding out in isolated prayer that keeps us apart from others. I love a God who is the opposite of one who is all about fire, brimstone and eternal punishment. I love that kind of God that I see evident in the most wonderful people I have met in this life-and guess what? Many of those people don’t go to church!
A GOOD READ The Good German by Joseph Kanon. An American correspondent goes to Berlin at the end of World War II, begins to investigate a murder, and finds the killer. The story was later made into a movie starring George Clooney.
HISTORY OF LITURGICAL MUSIC. In 313, Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as entitled to equal rights and protections alongside other religions of the Empire. The church now emerged from the underground. Latin replaced Greek as the official language of the liturgy at Rome. As the powers of the Roman Emperor in the West declined, the authority of the Roman Bishop increased. This gradually led to the predominant authority of Rome in matters of faith, discipline – and music
With great numbers of new converts and growing prestige, the church began to build large basilicas in the 5th to 7th centuries and to create music appropriate for such large assemblies. By the 8th century, a trained music school existed at Rome.
The culmination of liturgy and music is traditionally ascribed to Pope Gregory I (The Great). Gregorian chant emphasized order and discipline.
Today’s Gregorian chant is not necessarily 100% true to that sung centuries ago; the oldest manuscripts with musical notation did not appear until 300 years later
Gregorian chant constitutes one of the most ancient bodies of song still in use anywhere in the world.
Many people find Gregorian chant to be extremely restful and conducive to prayer. For a good example, see YouTube – the 99 most essential Gregorian chants or 1 Hour Divine Gregorian Chant Compilation Mix – Chant of the Mystics Vol. 1 Album – Mystical Chants
THE CHAMPION, magazine of the NAACP L. Interesting articles on:
- Defense efforts to close the door on social media evidence; and
- Qualified immunity
MORE ON PBS “CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.”
FACT OR FICTION? Was the President infatuated with Norway’s Crown Princess?
Fact or Fiction: FDR had romantic feelings for Princess Martha.
LIKELY: “There were many rumors about their relationship—many at the time thought [it was] romantic,” says series creator, director, co-writer and executive producer, Alexander Eik. “We do not know for certain that was the case, but we know that President Roosevelt was infatuated with Martha and this has been confirmed by many sources [including] two of his grandchildren. … Early in the war, British Intelligence [also] reported from Washington to London that the President was infatuated.”
It’s true that in his spare time between 1941-1945, FDR’s most frequent companion was Martha, though others were often with them as well. “We have assumed President Roosevelt had romantic feelings for the Crown Princess,” sums up series’ co-writer and historian, Linda May Kallestein. “That does not mean they had a physical relationship.”
And what did Martha feel for Roosevelt? “That we don’t know,” says Eik. “She was very private. We don’t even know if she wrote anything down in her diaries or in any letters. … We certainly haven’t been able to find any evidence for her feelings towards the President. … Personally, I think she had very warm feelings for him. We know their friendship was intimate, that it was a deep friendship. Was it romantic? I don’t know.”
Fact or Fiction: Eleanor Roosevelt and Princess Martha became good friends—eventually.
FACT: “In our research we found Eleanor’s relationship with Martha developed during the war,” says Eik. “As far as we know, the First Lady didn’t think much of the Crown Princess when she first arrived.” While Eleanor was a strong voice in the White House and a political activist, Martha focused on her children. Later Eik adds, “it was clear the President was flirting with Martha. Someone confronted Eleanor about it and she is said to have shrugged and said, There’s always a Martha.”
But Norway’s Crown Princess ended up making a great effort for her country and she and Eleanor were definitely on friendly terms as the war progressed, according to Kallestein. One of Martha’s heralded achievements was a 1943 speech in Madison Square Garden to raise Red Cross funds and it’s true that the First Lady introduced her on stage. However “the part about Eleanor’s helping Martha with her fears of public speaking is something we made up to fit Martha’s dramatic arc,” Kallestein explains.
Eventually, Eleanor became a close friend and supporter of Martha. “Eleanor visited Oslo after the war as the royal family’s guest and met with Martha when [the Crown Princess] traveled several times to the U.S. for medical treatment,” says Kallestein.
Fact or Fiction: Martha invited injured sailor Alfred Isaksen to dinner as guest of honor.
FICTION: She did not invite a wounded veteran to challenge prominent guests including the President; the situation is fictional as is the character named Alfred Isaksen. It is true, however, that the Crown Princess met a Norwegian seaman who had survived a torpedo attack and who rejected her inquiries during a hospital visit, say the series co-writers. Martha later learned the sailor was anxious about his family, investigated their situation, and wrote him a letter conveying news they were doing well. The next time she visited, the man cried tears of joy thanking her. It is also “true that President Roosevelt brought high-ranking guests to [Martha’s] home,” says Eik. “The representation of her home as an informal, social arena is correct.”
Fact or Fiction: Merchant seamen from Norway were overnight guests at Pook’s Hill.
FICTION: The Norwegian Embassy arranged day trips to Pook’s Hill for both war refugees and wounded sailors, however series co-writers say they found no evidence that any spent the night. Episode 5 scenes of men being assigned bedrooms and Martha calming the young sailor Otto’s nightmares are fictionalized. “Otto represents several characters we found in our research,” says Eik. “Many Norwegian refugees in the U.S. had major problems and we know the Crown Princess helped as many as she could.”
Princess Martha did visit area hospitals to personally thank Norwegian seamen and listen to their stories. And in 1943, she and Prince Olav also opened a 51-acre center in the U.S. for Norway’s seamen and refugees.
# # #
STILL MORE ON PBS ‘s “CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.”
To better appreciate the fine PBS presentation, here are continuing notes on Scandinavia during World War II.
As the war began to shift in favor of the Allies, the Swedes changed their strategy with regard to aiding the precariously situated European Jews, who up to that point had been refused refuge in Sweden. The first shift in Sweden’s stance towards Jews occurred in 1942. When the Germans began their campaign of persecution against the Jews of Norway, the Swedish government accepted 900 Jewish refugees, slightly more than half of Norway’s Jewish population.
In 1943, Sweden received nearly all of Denmark’s 8,000 Jews (along with 9,000 Danish Christians who were seeking refuge from conditions of war). With the dissolution of the Danish government in the summer of 1943, the German authorities decided to deport Denmark’s Jewish population to concentration camps. However, the Danes successfully ferried all but 450 of the Danish Jews across the straits between Copenhagen and the Swedish mainland, across waters that were patrolled by German ships, in an unprecedented rescue effort.
Once in Sweden, the Danish Jews were granted asylum and taken in by Swedish families. Many stayed in Sweden after the war. Sweden also received refugees from Finland and Norway, including some of Norway’s Jews. All this, as well as the protection of Sweden’s own Jewish population, was made possible by Sweden’s neutrality.
A daily newspaper in Sweden, the Svenska Dagbladet said that Sweden did more to assist and save Jews than any other country
Neutrality also allowed Sweden to have physical access to Germany, which was useful to Allied intelligence.
King Gustav V of Sweden attempted to use his diplomatic connections with German leaders to convince them to treat Jews more humanely, as evidenced through his correspondence, although to little effect.
Count Folke Bernadotte, a relative of the Swedish royal family, was able to communicate with the German government and relay information back to Sweden, as did other diplomats. He also contributed in saving 15,000 prisoners from concentration camps, as did Valdemar Langlet and the famous diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who may have saved up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews.
Many Swedish noblemen used their personal connections and wealth to take in and find temporary Swedish homes for children from neighboring countries, mainly Denmark and Finland[ Werner Dankwort served as the first secretary for the German legation in Stockholm during the German Nazi regime and secretly helped Jewish children to escape from Germany into Sweden inside wooden crates.
The Swedish public’s sentiments were widely published in the Swedish press, causing many protests from the German government and prompting the Swedish government to censor some areas of the press. Newspapers fell under the control of several authorities, despite contemporary claims that the Swedish press was free. The Swedish Government Information Board determined what military information could be released and what information should remain secret.
The Swedish government was concerned that its neutrality might be compromised should the press become too vocal in its opinions. Both the Swedish Press Council and the Information Board issued advice such as: “….attempts should be made not to give prominence to the reports of one side at the expense of the other.”
Relations with Nazi Germany
Perhaps the most important aspect of Sweden’s concessions to Germany during the Second World War was the extensive export of iron ore for use in the German weapons industry, reaching ten million tons per year. As Germany’s preparations for war became more apparent and the risk of another war became obvious, international interest in Swedish iron ore increased. At the time, British intelligence estimated that German industry relied heavily on Swedish iron ore and a decrease or halt in Swedish ore exports could have a disastrous effect on Germany’s military efforts .
Britain had been unable to prevent the successful Nazi invasion of both France and Norway; Sweden was not convinced that the British could protect them and opted to continue exports. The iron ore provided much needed gold bullion, food and coal from Germany. These shipments were subject to attacks from British aircraft and submarines in the Atlantic and North Sea and by Soviet submarines in the Baltic. About 70 vessels were sunk and 200 sailors killed during the war.
Responding to German appeals for volunteers to fight the Soviet Union, approximately 180 Swedes enlisted in Germany’s Waffen-SS, and saw combat against Soviet troops on the Eastern Front… Their number was small compared to occupied countries, in which officials encouraged enlisting for the Eastern Front (Norway 6,000; Denmark 6,000; France 11,000; Netherlands 20,000).
With an Allied blockade of the Skagerrak straits between Norway and the northern tip of Denmark, the Swedish merchant navy found itself physically divided. The vessels inside the Baltic Sea traded goods with Germany during the war; elsewhere, vessels were leased to the Allies for convoy shipping. Approximately 1,500 Swedish sailors perished during the war, mostly victims of mines and U-boat attacks.
Relations with the Allies
Sweden made efforts to help the Allied Forces. From May 1940, a large part of the Swedish merchant navy found outside the Baltic, (totaling about 8,000 seamen) was leased to Britain. 300 Swedes traveled to Norway to fight the German invasion German telegraph traffic to occupied Oslo went through Swedish-leased cables which the Swedes intercepted
US planes were allowed to use Swedish military bases during the liberation of Norway, from spring 1944 to 1945, and the Allies were also collaborating with the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service. Sweden allowed Allied spies to listen to German radio signals from a station on Öland. A radio beacon was also established in Malmö for the British military to guide bombing of Germany
From 1943 onward, Norwegian and Danish soldiers (Den danske Brigade) were trained at Swedish military bases. Sweden had also set up a series of training camps along the Norwegian border for the Norwegian resistance movement. Toward the end of the war Swedish intelligence cooperated with US air transport in relief efforts directed toward areas liberated by the Red Army.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Pres. Biden often uses the word “malarkey.” Where does that come from?
The word malarkey, meaning “insincere or exaggerated talk,” originally found favor in Irish-American usage, though its exact origin remains unknown. We can likely thank a cartoonist of Irish descent, Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (“TAD” for short), for popularizing the word.
Ben Zimmer, a U.S. language commentator, has alleged that the word was first used by Irish Americans. Contrariwise, Michael Quinion, a British writer, etymologist, and the author of World Wide Words, insists that the word’s origin is still unknown. (Zimmer added that Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, also popularized “kibitzer” and “hard-boiled” through his cartoons.)
CALL THE MIDWIVES. A local PBS station is replaying the popular series Call the Midwives. One episode centered on the horrible case of thalidomide babies.
Frederick Dove, himself a “thalidomide baby,” furnishes a fascinating update. He relates:
Fifty years ago, the sedative Thalidomide was withdrawn after thousands of mothers gave birth to disabled babies. That ageing Thalidomide generation now faces rising care bills – but some hope a possible Nazi link to the drug could bring more compensation.
In November 1961, I was five months old. My family had no idea why their otherwise healthy baby boy had been born with short arms, twisted hands and no thumbs.
But by the end of that month, the truth was finally out in the open.
After a German newspaper reported that Thalidomide was the likely cause for the mysterious spate of disabled babies born in Germany since 1958, the drug’s producer, Chemie Gruenenthal, caved in to growing pressure, and on 26 November withdrew all products containing Thalidomide from what had been very lucrative, over-the-counter sales.
A few days later, Thalidomide’s British licensee, Distillers, followed suit in the UK. But by then, the damage was done.
Thalidomide has strong sedative properties and many women in the early weeks of pregnancy had taken it to ease their morning sickness, utterly unaware its effect on the unborn child can be teratogenic, or “monster-forming”.
Limbs can fail to develop properly, in some cases also eyes, ears and internal organs. No-one knows how many miscarriages the drug caused, but it’s estimated that, in Germany alone, 10,000 babies were born affected by Thalidomide. Many were too damaged to survive for long.
Today, fewer than 3,000 are still alive. In Britain, it’s about 470. Among the nearly 50 countries affected are Japan (approximately 300 survivors), Canada and Sweden (both more than 100), and Australia (45). Spain’s government only recently acknowledged the drug was ever distributed there. No-one knows how many Spanish survivors there are. It could be hundreds.
After 1961, the drug didn’t disappear – medical researchers discovered it can be extremely effective in certain treatments. Stringent precautions should be taken, particularly with women patients of child-bearing age. But sadly, in Brazil, where the drug has been widely used in treating certain leprosy symptoms, there is now another, younger generation of disabled Thalidomide survivors.
Just as the drug’s effect in the womb seems totally random, so too was the compensation received. In recent years, UK survivors have won concessions from the government, the tax authorities and Distillers’ successor company, which has boosted current average compensation pay-outs in the UK to around $63,000 (£40,000) a year.
But elsewhere, survivors still get nothing, or very little. Of today’s 6,000 estimated survivors around the world, nearly half fall under the compensation deal in Germany. That currently provides a yearly maximum of about 13,500 euros (£11,840), which does not cover the needs of those with multiple limb deficiencies. Many have no independent income and require constant care.
Campaigns for higher compensation are gaining support – in Germany and elsewhere. Progress has been slow, but that could change dramatically, if proof is found that it was not Chemie Gruenenthal which discovered Thalidomide, as has always been claimed, but scientists working for the Nazi regime.
Gruenenthal patented Thalidomide in the mid-1950s. But investigations in the past two years have confirmed that the German brand-name – Contergan – was owned by the French pharma-company, Rhone-Poulenc, during the early 1940s, when it was effectively under Nazi control.
It’s also now becoming clear that Gruenenthal was part of a post-war network of German scientists and businessmen who had played leading roles during the Nazi era. Immediately after the war, for example, Gruenenthal employed Dr. Heinrich Mueckter as chief scientist, who was sought in Poland on charges of war crimes after conducting medical experiments in prison camps, during which hundreds of prisoners may have died.
Mr. Dove concludes: “Which is why, on 26 November – 50 years on – we, the German survivors, will march, waddle, limp or roll in wheelchairs from the Brandenburg Gate to the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. ….To celebrate that we are still alive, and to remember those who never lived.”
LAWYERS CORNER. A recent issue of the Champion magazine of NACDL provides a model standing order on the obligations of the prosecution in light of Brady. Another article speaks of creative voir dire in drunk driving cases
OSCAR FESTIVAL. One of the cable networks is featuring films which won Oscars, including “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.” This was the story of Singer Lillian Roth, who revealed to the world that she was an alcoholic.
– In February 1953, she appeared on a special episode of the TV series This Is Your Life hosted by Ralph Edwards . In response to her honesty in relating her story of alcoholism, she received more than 40,000 letters
Lillian Roth, 1910 – 1980, was a child actress.
She was only 6 years old when her mother took her to Educational Pictures, where she became the company’s trademark, symbolized by a living statue holding a lamp of knowledge. In her autobiography. She attended the Professional Children’s School in New York City with classmates Ruby Keeler and Milton Berle.
In 1917 Roth made her Broadway debut as the character “Flossie” in The Inner Man [Her film debut occurred the following year, when she performed as an extra in the government documentary Pershing’s Crusaders. She and her sister Ann also toured together during this period as “Lillian Roth and Co. One of the highlights of their tour was meeting U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who attended the girls’ vaudeville act and afterwards allowed them to ride with him briefly in his chauffeur-driven car.
Roth appeared in Artists and Models in 1923 and went on to make Revels with Frank Fay. During production for the show, she told management she was 19 years of age despite being only 13 at the time.
In 1927, at the age of 17, Roth returned to Broadway to perform in the first of three Earl Carroll Vanities, which was followed by Midnight Frolics, a Florenz Ziegfeld production. Soon the young actress signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures.
Roth headlined the Palace Theatre in New York City and performed in the Earl Carroll Vanities in 1928, 1931, and 1932..
During this time, her personal life increasingly was overshadowed by her alcoholism..
Her theme song, which she began singing as a child performer, was “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)“.
Roth was married six times
SPIRITUAL QUESTION. What is the New Testament miracle mentioned in all four Gospels> ANSWER: The “Feeding of the 5000.”
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DECOMPOSE? A friend sends an interesting list of how long it takes certain objects to completely decompose. Among the interesting items:
Paper towel – 2 to 4 weeks
Banana peel – 3 to 4 weeks
Newspaper – 1 ½ months
Orange peels – six months
Cigarette butts – 10 to 12 years
Plastic cups – 50 years
Plastic containers – 50 to 80 years
Plastic bottles – 450 years
Aluminum cans – 200 to 500 years
Plastic bags – 200 to 1000 years
New York Times
Swelling Anti-Asian Violence: Who Is Being Attacked Where (“Over the last year, in an unrelenting series of episodes with clear racial animus, people of Asian descent have been pushed, beaten, kicked, spit on and called slurs. Homes and businesses have been vandalized. The violence has known no boundaries, spanning generations, income brackets and regions. The New York Times attempted to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias nationwide. Using media reports from across the country, The Times found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.”)
National Law Journal/Law.com
Justices, Issuing Rare Order, Spurn Argument Request From Biden DOJ (“Supreme Court advocates often seek the government’s support as amicus when relevant to their cases because of the court’s traditional respect for that office. In addition to Monday’s denial, the Supreme Court rejected argument requests by the U.S. solicitor general in at least two other cases since 2011.”)
Techniques have successfully tracked down elusive serial killers may soon be used to help identify thousands of American service members ‘known but to God.’
They moved into churches to avoid deportation. Now they’re asking: Is it safe to leave? (“President Biden froze deportations for 100 days, but a judge quickly blocked that order, creating a dilemma for those in sanctuary.”)
He said he spent $15,000 on a Disney World trip. He refused a temperature check and got arrested. (“Kelly Sills paid a small fortune for an enchanting trip to ‘the most magical place on Earth.’ Instead, the Baton Rouge resident — like several other Disney World guests who have defied coronavirus restrictions — visited the Orange County jail.”)
Police officers are prosecuted for murder in less than 2 percent of fatal shootings (“Police officers are rarely prosecuted in the US.”
HISTORY BUFFS: In ancient Rome, Titus is left-handed. This makes Titus exempt from Army service. He is neither a Christian nor unfit for the Army. What keeps him a civilian?
PRUDENCE? “… He’s always said exactly what he meant. It’s a wonder he got promoted as high as he did.” – Ruth Downey, Memento Mori
RELIEF FOR A HISPANIC MARINE. Good news for our client RB – more than 34 years later, he succeeded in winning an upgrade from his undesirable-type discharge. In gratitude for his victory, this kindly man wrote us, “I had Angels with me throughout my life and 10 years ago I found one.”
Another client – C – was able to clear up a difficult situation and get approved to work as a civilian nurse.
DISLOYAL? NACDL’s Champion magazine book report: Regarding Mr. Cohen, the President Trump attorney who lost his license to practice law, the reviewer argues that “disbarment doesn’t nullify confidentiality.”
28 migrant children and their parents face deportation after refusing to be separated (“This summer, ICE gave the parents the choice between keeping their children with them in detention or releasing their children from detention without them.”)
The Crime Report
Can the Sixth Amendment Protect Defendants from Junk Science? (“On December 3, the Maryland Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in two cases that address when a criminal defendant has a right to cross-examine a lab technician who tested a DNA sample in his case.”)
Jury duty? No thanks say many, forcing trials to be delayed (“A few courts have held trials in person and by video conference. Although video conferences may appear to be the best bet, many criminal defense lawyers oppose them because it’s harder to determine witness credibility and to see if jurors are paying attention, said Christopher Adams, a lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina, and president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. ‘For almost everybody, there is no compelling need for trials to go forward during the pandemic,’ he said, adding that most courts are not holding jury trials at the moment. Adams said another concern is how representative juries would be if trials went ahead — the virus’ impact and the level of concern about it across different demographics, such as Black, Latino and elderly populations that are dying at higher rates, could affect who feels safe to serve jury duty. ‘What we can’t allow is to have trials where there’s not a fair cross section of the community represented,’ he said.”)
Collateral Consequences Resource Center
Updated: “Who Must Pay to Regain the Vote? A 50-State Survey” (“We are pleased to publish an update of our 50-state report on how unpaid court debt blocks restoration of voting rights lost as a result of conviction[.]”)
Execution rescheduled for only woman on federal death row (“The U.S. government now plans to execute the first female inmate in almost six decades just days before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the death penalty, takes office.”)
: “Who Must Pay to Regain the Vote? A 50-State Survey” (“We are pleased to publish an update of our 50-state report on how unpaid court debt blocks restoration of voting rights lost as a result of conviction[.]”)
Can an Algorithm Prevent Suicide? (“The Department of Veterans Affairs has turned to machine-learning to help identify vets at risk of taking their own lives.”)
Army Agrees to Review Thousands of Unfavorable Discharges for Veterans (“If approved by a federal judge, the settlement agreement in a class-action lawsuit could result in thousands of veterans gaining access to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ full array of benefits.”)
Prosecutors: 31 charged in Coast Guard test-fixing scheme (“More than 30 people were charged for their participation in a test score-fixing scheme that happened over seven years at a United States Coast Guard exam center in Louisiana, federal prosecutors announced.”)
Trump set on veto of defense bill over renaming bases honoring Confederates (“The president has told lawmakers he won’t back down from campaign threat to scuttle defense spending bill over proposed changes.”)
National Law Journal/Law.com
Amid COVID-19 Spike, 25 Federal Courts in 21 States Are Quitting Jury Trials Again (“Among the 25 U.S. district courts that have closed jury trials again because of the COVID-19 spike are courts in Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.”)
ANSWER FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Lefties are not much use in the Roman infantry – “you couldn’t have men wielding swords in whichever hand they chose.” Ruth Downey, Memento Mauri
FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Kamala Harris is the first vice president of color to take office, right? Answer at the end of today’s blog.
ELECTION DAY. Emily Goodman notes the following things about Election Day:
- Voting on Tuesday started in the 19th century when farmers often had to travel distances to the polling place. They did not want to travel on Sunday but needed to be back home for market day on Wednesday.
- The US is one of the few nations that does not declare Election Day a national holiday
- Texas astronauts voted on Election Day; Texas allows this option. The address used by the astronauts was low-earth orbit
- Can people with limited mental capacity vote? That depends on the state – Ohios state constitution purportedly cautions that no idiot or insane person may vote
EGO? “I would never name drop – it is tacky. My best friend, Pope Francis, taught me that.
THE GOLDEN RULE[S]:
Buddhism: hurt not others with that which pains yourself
Christianity: do onto others as you would have them do unto you
Hinduism: treat others as you would yourself be created
Islam: do unto all men as you would wish to have done to you
Judaism: what you yourself hate, do to no man.
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Bottom of Form
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How did we get the Electoral College?
The Founding Fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. However, the term “electoral college” does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.”
Since the Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution it would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system.
The ratification of the 12th Amendment, the expansion of voting rights, and the States’ use of the popular vote to determine who will be appointed as electors have each substantially changed the process.
Many different proposals to alter the Presidential election process have been offered over the years, such as direct nation-wide election by the eligible voters, but none has been passed by Congress and sent to the States for ratification as a Constitutional amendment. Under the most common method for amending the Constitution, an amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the States.
What proposals have been made to change the Electoral College process?
Reference sources indicate that over the past 200 years more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject. The American Bar Association has criticized the Electoral College as “archaic” and “ambiguous” and its polling showed 69 percent of lawyers favored abolishing it in 1987. But surveys of political scientists have supported continuation of the Electoral College. Public opinion polls have shown Americans favored abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967; 81 percent in 1968; and 75 percent in 1981.
Opinions on the viability of the Electoral College system may be affected by attitudes toward third parties. Third parties have not fared well in the Electoral College system. For example, third party candidates with regional appeal, such as Governor Thurmond in 1948 and Governor Wallace in 1968, won blocs of electoral votes in the South, but neither come close to seriously challenging the major party winner, although they may have affected the overall outcome of the election.
The last third party, or splinter party, candidate to make a strong showing was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (Progressive, also known as the Bull Moose Party). He finished a distant second in Electoral and popular votes (taking 88 of the 266 electoral votes needed to win at the time). Although Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote nationwide in 1992, he did not win any electoral votes since he was not particularly strong in any one state. In 2016, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, qualified for the ballot in all 50 States and the District of Columbia but also failed to win any electoral votes.
Any candidate who wins a majority or plurality of the popular vote nationwide has a good chance of winning in the Electoral College, but there are no guarantees (see the results of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 elections).
How many times has the Vice President been chosen by the U.S. Senate?
Once. In the Presidential election of 1836, the election for Vice President was decided in the Senate. Martin Van Buren’s running mate, Richard M. Johnson, fell one vote short of a majority in the Electoral College. Vice Presidential candidates Francis Granger and Johnson had a run-off in the Senate under the 12th Amendment, where Johnson was elected 33 votes to 17.
– From the National Archives
THE FIRST JEWISH CHAPLAIN: The Jewish-American History Foundation relates – –
Michael M. (Meir) Allen, born in Philadelphia in 1830, is the first known Jewish chaplain in the United States Army. He was not chaplain to only the Jewish soldiers in his regiment, but for the entire regiment.
As the regulations then stood, only a “regularly ordained minister of some Christian denomination” could serve as a chaplain. Even though there were many so-called chaplains who were unfit for their position, Allen was singled out by the Young Men’s Christian Association because he was Jewish.
He had received some rabbinical training from his religious leader, Rev. Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, and possessed a certificate of chaver which meant that he was an observant Jew who had studied the Shulkhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). He was a melamed (Hebrew teacher) of the Philadelphia Hebrew Education Society and frequently officiated as a cantor at Isaac Leeser’s congregation. However, he was not a “regularly ordained minister”, certainly not of a Christian denomination, and so not qualified for the position of chaplain.
Rather than face the shame of losing his commission and being expelled from the regiment, Allen resigned as chaplain. In 1866 he moved to New York City where he married Julia Spanier, of a distinguished German rabbinic family and became the director of Hebrew studies at the Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation Shearith Israel.
In 1873, Allen emigrated to Germany in order to be with his wife’s family in Hannover, Prussia. A letter written to a friend back in the United States shortly after his arrival in Hannover expresses his deep commitment to Orthodox Judaism and his satisfaction at the religious devotion of Hannover Jewry. He wrote, “Our Holy Religion is observed by our people here as it was in times gone by, when no reforms had crept in to mar the observance of our rites and ceremonies.” He went on to say that this was due mainly to the influence of his wife’s uncle, the Landesrabbiner (Chief Rabbi) of Hannover Province.
Chaplain Allen kept a journal during the month of September, 1861. It contains little of historic interest but gives a good account of how an Orthodox Jew in the Union Army observed the Jewish holidays. Because writing on the Sabbath and holidays is forbidden by Jewish law, Allen probably recorded the entries for those days (which are very brief) at some later date. The text of the journal was printed in the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1961.
KILL THE MESSENGER! Stephen G. Mehta relates that:
In some sense, mediators are simply messengers in a war of the parties. They send and interpret a message from one side to the other. And we all know sometimes what can happen to the messenger. Well I thought I might briefly look at the origin of the phrase, “Don’t shoot [or kill] the messenger.”
According to Wikipedia, “Shooting the messenger” is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news. It appears that the original basis for the statement may have come from a related sentiment expressed as far back as 446 B.C in Antigone by Sophocles as “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”. Later, it was used by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598)[and in Antony and Cleopatra: when told Antony has married another, Cleopatra threatens to treat the messenger’s eyes as balls, eliciting the response ‘gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match.’
As a side note as to why people for a long time have been worried about shooting the messenger. I think it goes back to fight or flight. When people hear a message that they don’t like, it invokes the fight or flight reaction in that person. Rather than run away from the message — and its implications — they choose to fight.
ANSWER FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Almost 100 years before Kamila Harris, a Native American from Kansas was the first US multi-racial vice president. He was Charles Curtis, who served under Herbert Hoover 1929-1933. Curtis’s mother was a Native American who belonged to the Kaw Nation. He was raised on a reservation.
According to Washington Post columnist Jillian Brockell, Curtis studied law and was admitted to the Kansas bar. He was first appointed to the Senate in 1907 at a time when senators were chosen by state legislatures. He was known for his winning personality, serving on the House Indian Affairs Committee. By the 1920s, he was Senate majority leader.
He was not particularly close with President Hoover.
At its lowest point, his Kaw Nation dwindled to fewer than 200 people. The Nation has renewed itself and now numbers nearly 3,600 people.
IN THE NEWS:
Editorial: Voters made clear: The war on drugs isn’t working (“On Election Day, voters around the country opted to relax state drug laws. New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Oregon went further, decriminalizing small quantities of all drugs. These movements mark a welcome shift in decades of destructive drug policy.”)
Trump’s record-breaking spree of federal executions could come to an end under Biden (“Even in a year that has tallied a record number of federal executions, Lisa Montgomery’s case stands out. Montgomery, 52, is scheduled on Dec. 8 to be the first woman in nearly 70 years to receive the federal death penalty. Her punishment is being carried out on an unusually fast timeline — all amid a pandemic.”)
U.S. criticized for police brutality, racism at U.N. rights review (“Major powers, including allies, criticized the United States for its human rights record on Monday during a U.N. review, citing the use of the death penalty, police violence against African Americans and the separation of migrant children from their families.”)
Here are three musical challenges for the Christmas season:
- It’s regularly sung as a popular Christmas Carol – but actually has little if anything to do with Christmas. It does not include a single detail from the story of Jesus’ birth: no stable, no shepherds, no wise men; no Mary or Joseph; no little town of Bethlehem or choirs of angels or silent nights. Can you name the Carol?
- In Doylestown PA, Victoria is planning to sing with the Unitarian Fellowship choir for the holidays. Given so many freethinking liberal members, the choir is unable to agree on a Christmas Carol which does not offend the sensibilities of at least one member. They finally settle on a popular Carol. Which one is it?
- Some of the ancient Carols appear to have been generated at the time when Catholic Gregorian chant was being replaced to the 1-2-3-4 musical style of the new Protestant denominations. How many Christmas or Advent Carols can you think of which reveal this changeover from Gregorian chant to today’s musical fashion?
ETHICS CORNER: You are the judge deciding how to prioritize the new pandemic vaccinations in your state. What is your fairest way of doing so among:
- Important government officials
- the elderly
- those who have already had the virus
- frontline medical workers
VA NEWS: A website on PTSD claims that the average rating is 70%; veterans can be rated from 0 to 100% with breaks at 10 – 30 – 50 – 70. About 800,000 veterans have a PTSD rating.
OVERSTAYING YOUR WELCOME? Complaining that certain elected representatives have too much longevity, one website complains of the following: Senators –
- Leahy – 40 years
- Hatch– 38 years
- Mikulski – 38 years
- Schumer – 34 years
- McConnell – 30 years
- Cochran – 42 years
- Grassley – 34 years
CANADA’S FORGOTTEN CAPITAL Archaeology Magazine reveals the interesting story of a short-lived Canadian capital in Montréal.
JEWISH SURVIVORS STRANDED IN GERMANY. The Last Million by David Nasaw tells the story of German Jews who survived the Nazi extermination efforts. After liberation, many felt they had nowhere to go – “nobody was waiting for us anywhere. We were alone and abandoned.”
IN THE NEWS:
National Law Journal
Commentary: Abbe Lowell Responds to Questions Around Clemency Case, Calls for Defense of Lawyers (“Let’s kill the lawyers,” Lowell writes. His work for the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along with a clemency request he made for another client, has raised some suspicion. He says people are quicker to assume the worst motives more so now than in any time in the decades he’s worked in Washington.”)
New York Law Journal
Jury Trials Halted in NY’s Federal Western District Until February at Earliest (“Both criminal and civil in-person appearances are halted through Feb. 24 as well, except if the appearance ‘is deemed essential by the presiding or referral judge,’ according to the order.”)
Mukasey Joins in Call for Clemency to Undo Convict’s ‘Topsy-Turvy Result’ (“More than 130 former federal judges, former U.S. attorneys and law professors, including Michael Mukasey, former U.S. attorney general and Southern District of New York judge, requested clemency for Daniela Gozes-Wagner.”)
The Legal Intelligencer
Pa. Judge Sanctions Lawyer for Coaching Witness During Video Deposition (“Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge James Gibbons referred attorney Patrick Carey to the state disciplinary board and ordered him to reimburse—out of pocket—all counsel in the case for filings related to his motion to dismiss the lawsuit.”)
Ga. Chief Justice Warns Judges Who Conduct Jury Trials to ‘Remain Vigilant’ About COVID-19 (“Georgia’s chief justice cautioned judges to be prepared to suspend jury trials and grand juries if COVID-19 rates continue to rise.”)
Federal Judge Eyes Injunction Mandating COVID-19 Measures at Clayton County Jail (“A parade of witnesses, including current and former inmates, recounted tales of being denied face masks, soap or sanitizer as they were crammed together, often three to a two-man cell.”)
Northern District of Georgia Suspends Jury Trials Through February as COVID-19 Spreads (“The order is U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Thrash’s ninth curtailing court operations because of the pandemic”)
Daily Business Review
No More Miami-Dade Jury Trials Until Next Year, Thanks to COVID-19 Spike (“‘I think it’s really important to know that, even though it looks like our doors are closed, they’ve been open since April 1,’ Miami-Dade Circuit Chief Judge Bertila Soto said.”)
California Federal Courthouses Limit Operations Amid COVID-19 Surge (“Federal courts in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego put in place renewed procedures in response to shelter in place orders and record-breaking COVID-19 infections.”)
Arizona Man Who Conspired to Threaten Journalists Gets 16 Months in Prison (“Johnny Roman Garza, 21, working with a neo-Nazi group, researched home addresses for potential targets and put up a threatening poster at the home of a journalist, prosecutors said.”)
Los Angeles Times
Man who was serving 90-year marijuana sentence is released from Florida prison (“While he served a 90-year prison sentence for selling marijuana, Richard DeLisi’s wife died, as did his 23-year-old son and both his parents. His adult daughter was in a horrific car accident and suffered a paralyzing stroke as a result. He never met two granddaughters — a lifetime of missed memories.”)
FOR HISTORY BUFFS. Sometimes, there seems to be no correct answer for a given question. Here are three examples:
What is the origin of the word “tip” (as in leaving a tip)?
- The word “tip” is allegedly an acronym for “To Insure Promptitude,” which was printed on bowls in British coffeehouses. Some say the custom originated in 17th century England.
- Others strongly disagree: they point out that only one known pre-20th-century English word originated with an acronym [the 1886 word “colinderies” or “colinda”, the Colonial and Indian Exposition held in London that year].
- The real origin of the word “tip” is obscure. Some maintain it may come from a popular form of speech among thieves, beggars, and hustlers.
- The term is believed to have originated from stage coach traveler gossip exchanged between two coaching inns, The Cock and The Bull in Stony Stratford, England. In the 18th and 19th century, these two inns were a main stopping point on the turnpike road from London to Birmingham, Chester to Ireland. The two hostelries still exist.
- Other commentators suggest that its origin is in mythical or fictional conversations among animals (such as in the first story of Arabian Nights). However, this derivation seems based on the supposition that the French expression “coq-a-l’ane” (“cock to donkey”) has been imported into English.
Policeman as a “Copper”
Friend Andy relates:
- I remember reading an old book to my young daughter, many years ago (she’s 16 now). It was an old library book which attributed the word to the copper badge that police officers wore.
- However, another source claims that the term likely comes from Anglo-Saxon times (1100’s) as a verb meaning “to catch or grab.” It shows up in writing in 1700’s England with the same meaning. The term was thought to be derogatory and therefore banned.
Andy provides wise insights:
I think it’s important that we remember that we may hold some beliefs that we feel to be the truth, for one reason or another. But I feel it is so important to remain open to the possibility that we just have it wrong sometimes. Maybe we just didn’t have all the facts or the proper context. Maybe we heard something that we wanted to hear, and therefore jumped to a faulty conclusion. Maybe we were just taught that (whether well- meaning or not).
But maybe if we can just take some time to step back and be open to additional information or even opposing viewpoints.
I’m not saying that we should always change our opinions when we receive information from others or other sources. If we feel like we have done sufficient and unbiased research (which in itself is often difficult), then we should feel good about taking the viewpoint that we feel is most credible.
I guess if we were all just a little more open to challenging our own viewpoints, beliefs, and opinions with alternate information and sources, we might gain a much clearer understanding of the subject, and certainly of other people. And we could all use a little more understanding these days.
MILITARY HUMOR. Someone pokes fun at the “good life” in the Air Force as opposed to the other services. Examples –
Navy/Marines: chow hall
Army: mess hall
Air Force: dining facility
Army: cup of Joe
Air Force: vanilla latte
Air Force: Bobby or Johnny
Air Force: apartment
Air Force: “Waiter, #3 with a diet cola”
ARAMAIC LANGUAGE. During a 3000 year history, Aramaic has served as the lingua franca for many nations. Apparently it was the language of the Hebrews until about 135 A.D. It was the language of Jesus, who spoke a Western Aramaic dialect during his public ministry. Aramaic is the liturgical language of many forms of Eastern Christianity. Only a few Aramaic speakers remain in the world today.
There are several versions of the Lord’s Prayer sung in Aramaic, available on YouTube. See Abwoon D’Bashmaya – The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic.
LIFE EXPECTANCY. The Washington Post Metro section for 28 August reports that in Washington DC, white males live 17 years longer than Afro-American males.
The same issue reports that absentee voting is not new. Union soldiers were allowed to vote via the modern equivalent of absentee ballot. Rascals attempted to stuff the ballot boxes for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential opponent.
Courthouse News Service
Virginia Lawmakers Advance Bill That Bans Qualified Immunity for Cops (“While state governments and activists around the country have talked about attempting to roll back qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police from civil rights lawsuits, Virginia legislators appear to be on their way to doing it.”)
The Daily Report/Law.com
Justices OK State Murder Charges Over Silicone Injections Despite Federal Conviction (“Deanna Roberts, who pleaded guilty to Federal charges of illegally obtaining liquid silicone and injecting it into women who thought she was a licensed doctor, will still have to face state charges, including felony murder.”)
NYPD Expands Use Of Controversial Subpoenas To Criminal Cases (“Administrative subpoenas—which do not require a judge’s approval—are typically used for the department’s internal investigations, but The Appeal has learned that they are being used in criminal cases.”)
3 Death Penalty Cases Knocking On The High Court’s Door (“The only Native American on death row, a man whose trial judge overruled a jury’s decision to not sentence him to death, and an inmate challenging a drug linked to several botched executions have all this month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their cases.”)
Denied Continuance, Vulnerable Dallas Lawyer to Appear Via Zoom for Jury Trial, While Opposing Counsel Goes to Court (“A trial court is pushing forward with a civil jury trial in a high school auditorium, with one lawyer appearing via Zoom because his doctor banned him from appearing in person due to age and health problems that put him at high risk if he gets COVID-19. The litigant lost an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court to delay the trial.”)
Law & Crime
PANDEMIC: On TV, many events seem odd without an audience – e.g. SNL or WWE events. Also, why do announcers working with panels say “I will go to you first” when all they have to do is say that individual’s name?
FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Last time, we posed a question – How can Pittsburgh’s radio station KDKA violate the rules? After all, call letters of all radio stations east of the Mississippi River begin with W while those west of the Mississippi begin with “K”
The answer is that KDA is a pioneer station, “grandfathered” and permitted to hold onto its cachet. KDKA was the world’s first commercial radio station, beginning broadcasting in Pittsburgh in 1920. In January 1923, the K/W boundary was shifted to the Mississippi; existing stations were allowed to keep their old call letters rather than confuse longtime listeners with a new identity. Nearly a dozen W-stations still exist west of the Mississippi.
KDKA made the nation’s first commercial broadcast on Election Day 1920. The power of radio was demonstrated when people heard results of the Harding-Cox presidential race well they could read about it in the newspaper.
EASY LISTENING. For those who enjoy working to classical music, try Google – YouTube – Best of (name of the composer). Great stuff.
LITTLE LIBRARIES. Our neighborhood had been blessed with those little mailboxes in which people place used books. A godsend to the Military Defender through the pandemic. But thankfully, some nearby public libraries have opened – no longer requiring reading the only thing seemingly left in the little libraries – Harlequin romances!
AA COMES THROUGH. Some 12-step friends have not been deterred from their meetings by the virus. Plenty of virtual meetings – including one that is proving popular in Manchester, UK. One “friend of Bill” recently announced that he had attended virtual meetings in all 50 states.
The Crime Report
Prosecutors Condemn ‘Myopic’ Approach to Punishment (“Interviews with 22 district and state’s attorneys from smaller jurisdictions indicates a willingness to step outside their traditional roles to look for alternatives to incarceration.”)
Courthouse News Service
Quarter-Million-Dollar Misdemeanors: Private Cops Cash In on Unusual Contempt Case (“With trial still months away, taxpayers have paid more than a quarter-million dollars to a private law firm deputized by a Federal judge to convict an environmental attorney of misdemeanors.”)
California High Court Debates Making Lower Bar Exam Passing Threshold Retroactive (“The California Supreme Court is considering whether to apply a newly-lowered bar passing score to the February 2020 exam, following a flurry of letters and petitions from law school graduates, deans, and legislators.”)
New York Times
Opinion: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation (by John Lewis, “Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.”)
About 20% of N.J. Prisoners Could Be Freed to Avoid Virus (“Believed to be the first Covid-19 bill of its kind, the legislation could free more than 3,000 New Jersey prisoners within a year of release.”)
New Pentagon training refers to protesters, journalists as ‘adversaries’ (“The training comes amid worsening relations between the federal government and protesters.”)
Collateral Consequences Resource Center
Who Must Pay to Regain the Vote? A 50-State Survey (“This report examines the extent to which state laws consider repayment of legal financial obligations in determining whether to restore voting rights to felons.”)
New York Daily News
Michael Avenatti is broke, likely will need public defender: documents (“Michael Avenatti is unable to pay his attorneys and will likely hire a public defender to fight allegations he stole money from porn star Stormy Daniels, a new court filing revealed.”)
Behind closed doors during one of John Roberts’ most surprising years on the Supreme Court (“New details obtained by CNN reveal how Roberts maneuvered on controversial cases in the justices’ private sessions, at times defying expectations as he sided with liberal justices. Roberts exerted unprecedented control over cases and the court’s internal operations, especially after the nine were forced to work in isolation because of Covid-19.”)
PERILS OF REOPENING THE COURTS. NACDL’s CHAMPION magazine has a splendid new issue devoted to virtual trials. The president of the organization, Nina J. Ginsberg, warns that future litigants may be forced to choose between a speedy adjudication with questionable constitutionality; or a full, fair trial endangering the health of all concerned.
Numerous authors contribute to the edition, asking such questions as:
- To what degree can a platform such as Zoom substitute for: face-to-face confrontation; the defendant’s ability to be present for trial; and an opportunity to observe the judge’s competency?
- Is Constitutional confrontation lost in video testimony?
- To what degree are telephonic hearings allowable?
- How can virtual criminal trials overcome key constitutional hurdles such as the right to physically face the accuser, the right to powerfully participate in one’s own defense, the right to be “present,” and an accused’s ability to probe for juror bias?
- Does virtual testimony fundamentally alters the psychology of jurors – the ability to assess credibility. What about decreased “virtual juror” attention spans?
- Will be pandemic make it difficult to obtain a representative cross selection; will certain demographics be excluded from the jury pool such as elderly persons, racial and ethnic minorities, and those unemployed or of low income?
- Will we pandemic harm the right to a speedy trial?
- Will the virus impair the effectiveness of counsel, in that it cuts down on client meetings and investigations?
- How are typical objections handled during to videoconference testimony?
- Is a “virtual witness” in fact unavailable to testify? Will remote testimony weaken further Fair Play?
- A live witness sworn and subject to cross-examination presents a demeanor which can be observed by the trier of fact. How does this play during a virtual trial?
- Will a defendant prior to trial be provided an opportunity to take a deposition?
- If there is more than one video-conference witness, is there a danger that the cumulative effect chills the defendant’s ability to confront witnesses and enjoy Due Process?
ETHICS CORNER: Randy, Tom, and Lance were impressive as the “three Galahads” –key to football success for the University of Mississippi in the 1990s. Each year, the three grads proudly fly the traditional Mississippi flag from their front porch at Homecoming.
Mississippi has now withdrawn the Confederate Stars and Bars from its official state flag. The three ex-players have no particular political leanings but nevertheless want to fly their old banners this year.
- Randy lives in a racially mixed area
- Tom is a Vicksburg policeman
- Lance is a Lieut. Col. stationed at Keesler AFB, MS.
What is your advice to each man?
RACE FOR REAL. George Pellecanos writes in his detective story RIGHT AS RAIN:
A lot of people on the street I lived on, they had bumper stickers on their cars – “Teach peace.” “Celebrate the diversity.” I’d see their little girls walking around with black baby dolls in their strollers. But come birthday time, you didn’t see any black children at those little white girls parties – none of those children from “down at the apartments” nearby. These people really believe you put a bumper sticker on your Volvo so the neighbors can see and that is all you have to do.”
* * *
You saw a black man and you saw a criminal and you made up your mind. Yeah, there was noise and confusion and lights. I know about all that. But would you have pulled the trigger if Wilson had been white? I don’t think so… Cut through all the extra bullshit and you’re going to have to just go ahead and admit it, man: you killed a man because he was black.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS. Earlier, we asked whether it was permitted for any member of Parliament to drink alcohol while that chamber was in session.
The answer: the Chancellor of the Exchequer is so permitted– but only during his annual Budget speech! The last three Chancellors have all stuck to mineral water.
THANK YOU. Client TH kindly writes: “You are trying your best for me – I wish I had money supporters like you, asked for help in the military and got the cold shoulder.
REFLECTIONS ON AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE: “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. Pres. Harry Truman
National Law Review
The Constitution Protects Faces in the Crowd (“Unlimited law enforcement application of facial recognition software to surveillance footage is an unreasonable search and a violation of Constitutional rights for people in a peaceful crowd.”)
‘Afraid of the President’: Ex-Mueller Prosecutor to Testify of Political Interference in Roger Stone Sentencing Memo (“A pair of DOJ attorneys are set to testify before Congress at a hearing titled ‘Oversight of the Department of Justice: Political Interference and Threats to Prosecutorial Independence.'”)
New York Times
Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm (“In what may be the first known case of its kind, a faulty facial recognition match led to a Michigan man’s arrest for a crime he did not commit.”)
Can Judges Force People to Wear Face Masks in Court? This Texas County Wants to Know (“Harris County has requested an attorney general opinion about the county’s legal authority to require people to wear face masks in courthouses.”)
New York Daily News
Coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin prison hits almost 200 inmates (“The number of coronavirus-positive inmates at San Quentin State Prison in California has increased tenfold in barely two weeks, according to health officials.”)
National Law Journal/Law.com
Commentary: A Black Lawyer’s Letter to His Son: “My Mission Is to Keep You Safe” (“Greenberg Traurig litigation partner A. Michael Pratt pens a letter to his son upon his college graduation. Typically a time to celebrate, current events weigh heavy on their minds.”)
Pa. Supreme Court Strikes Down Probation Policy Barring Medical Marijuana Use (“Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who wrote the court’s 16-page opinion, said the language of the law was clear, and any policy concerns expressed by a county court system would best be addressed by the General Assembly.”)
Muslim Woman Was Forced to Remove Hijab for Booking Photo After Arrest, Advocacy Group Says (“More than 100,000 people have signed a petition criticizing the treatment of Alaa Massri, 18, at a correctional center in Miami.”)
FOR HISTORY BUFFS. Last time, we asked about the surprise awaiting English war planners in 1939. Here’s the answer: Supposedly a law was passed by the British Parliament in 1803 setting up observers to watch for a possible invasion by Napoleon. Somehow, the position was never abolished, even after Waterloo. During World War II, when civil servants came to set up aerial observers to signal a possible Nazi invasion, they found a small group – still waiting for Napoleon.
… A NEW QUESTION. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in the English Parliament with one exception. Can you name it?
A METHODIST CONTRIBUTION. The superintendent of the Arlington, Virginia district of the United Methodist Church has several suggestions dealing with fairness and equality:
- prayer, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time the officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
- Education – reading books on racism
- Working for equal justice under law
- Personal experience with people different than us
MORE ON HOMESCHOOLING. New friend Andy contributes more on parents who suddenly find themselves teachers:
- If you see my kids locked out today, never mind –we are having a fire drill
- “Alexa, homeschool the children.”
- Kids watching too much TV? Turn off the sound and turn on the subtitles – now they are reading. 🙂
- “Arithmetic: Mommy has to homeschool three children for two months. She only has one bottle of wine left. How many more bottles does she need before the liquor store shuts down?”
- It took less than one week of homeschooling to understand why nuns used to hit their students with rulers.
- After one week of homeschooling, we have our first fundraiser. It’s a Go Fund Me… I’m going to need a lot of chocolate and medication.
THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT – 11 RULES. . Paul Anthony Jones writes in Mental Floss about this venerable institution.
The UK Parliament is one of the oldest in the world. It operates under strict rules and ancient traditions unheard of in modern politics. Here are a few of its prohibitions.
- GIVING A SPEECH IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH…
It’s not permitted to give a speech in the UK Parliament in any language except English unless absolutely necessary—despite the fact that from 1916–22 Britain had a native Welsh speaker as Prime Minister.
- … OR READING A SPEECH.
According to Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords, in most instances, the reading of speeches is “alien to the custom of this House, and injurious to the traditional conduct of its debates.” Members may have “extended notes from which to speak, but it is not in the interests of good debate that they should follow them closely.”
- USING NAMES.
Members of the House are prohibited from calling one another by name. All comments must be addressed via the Speaker to fellow “honourable members.” Only the Speaker may use members’ first names.
- LETTING THE SPEAKER “WALK” TO THE CHAIR AFTER ELECTION.
Tradition dictates that the Speaker must be physically “dragged” to the Speaker’s chair when elected to the position (although it’s more of a ceremonial dragging than an actual one). Supposedly this bizarre ritual is a holdover from the days when the Speaker of the House—once tasked with dictating Parliament’s will to the king—often found himself first in line for imprisonment (or worse) if the king didn’t like what he had to say.
- GETTING A VISIT FROM THE MONARCH.
No reigning monarch has entered the House of Commons since 1642, when Charles I stormed the House of Commons, an event that eventually led to civil war. When the queen officially oversees the State Opening of Parliament every year, her speech has to be read from the nearby House of Lords.
- AND 7. TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS AND APPLAUDING.
Members may have electronic devices—”provided that they cause no disturbance and are not used in such a way as to impair decorum.” They must be in silent mode and can’t be used “to film, take photographs or make audio recordings in or around the Chamber.”
Applause is also forbidden, which 56 newly-elected Scottish National Party MPs found to their cost in 2015, when they were admonished by the Speaker for spontaneously applauding their leader, Angus Robertson.
8., 9., AND 10. DRESSING CASUALLY, WEARING SUITS OF ARMOR, AND HAVING SWORDS.
Parliament’s strict rules extend to what members are permitted to wear, with current guidelines requiring “businesslike attire” at all times. There have been some exceptions to Parliament’s strict dress code over the years, mostly as a means of protesting or raising awareness for various causes. In 2013, British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wore a bold T-shirt protesting against the appearance of topless women in tabloid newspapers—and was promptly scolded by the Speaker for failing to meet Parliament’s strict sartorial rules.
Wearing a suit of armor is also banned, thanks to a law introduced by King Edward II in 1313. The same statute banned swords from the Chamber—although tradition states that the two opposing benches in the House of Commons are positioned precisely two sword-lengths away from one another. (There is one exception: The Serjeant at Arms is allowed to carry a sword.)
- USING “UNPARLIAMENTARY LANGUAGE.”
Of all the UK Parliament’s rules, those surrounding what is officially known as “unparliamentarily language” are among the most curious. For centuries, the Speaker of the House has repeatedly chided Members on their use of abusive, insulting, or slanderous language.
It is not permitted, for instance, to accuse a fellow MP of being a liar, a hypocrite, or a traitor. It is also against the rules to accuse anyone in the Chamber of being drunk.
But there is not, according to Parliament’s own rules, a “hard and fast list of unparliamentarily words.” Whether something is in breach of the rulebook depends simply “on the context” in which it was said. Nevertheless, some of the words that have been deemed unparliamentarily over the years include:
An MP found to use language along these lines is typically asked by the Speaker to withdraw the comments or asked to leave the chamber.
Some MPs, however, have found ways of getting around Parliament’s rules. The phrase “terminological inexactitude” is used to avoid accusing a fellow member of telling a lie. According to one tale, in the 19th century, opposition leader (and future Prime Minister) Benjamin Disraeli was asked to withdraw a statement he had made accusing half the government of being “asses.” In his half-hearted apology he stated, “Mr Speaker, I withdraw – half the cabinet are not asses.”
U.S. Courts Try Out Social Distancing, Video for Grand Juries (“After months of being shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, the doors at Federal courthouses around the nation are slowly starting to swing open with the convening of socially distanced grand juries. Jurors, tasked with deciding whether to issue criminal indictments, will be seated far apart from one another, or in some cases—like in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, and in Montana’s federal district court—will be required to view proceedings via video in different rooms or courthouses. That use of video is worrisome, said Nina J. Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. ‘There is such a tendency to depersonalize what you’re seeing on a screen, and you’re distancing yourself from the gravity of the decisions that you’re making,’ she said.”)
Police promised reforms. They still fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people every year. (“The Washington Post has documented 5,400 fatal shootings by police in the United States since the start of 2015.”)
Experts doubt this is a moment of reckoning for policing in U.S. (“The politics of police reform that have quashed previous efforts still loom: powerful unions, legal immunity for police and intractable implicit biases.”)
The Marshall Project
I Wonder If They Know My Son Is Loved (“Visiting my son in jail for the first time, I know that I cannot protect him. Although he is too young to drink, the criminal justice system regards him as an adult.”)
New York Times
Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Death Not Likely to Present United Front (“Facing decades in prison and a bail of at least $750,000, two former Minneapolis officers blamed Derek Chauvin, and a third has cooperated with investigators, their lawyers said.”)
Tacoma mayor calls for officers to be fired over death of another unarmed black man who yelled ‘I can’t breathe!’ (“Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards called on Friday for all four officers involved in the death of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black man, to be fired, after the county medical examiner ruled his death a homicide in police custody. He died March 3 while in handcuffs, after being restrained by officers on the ground.”)
Two ex-officers involved in Floyd’s death blame veteran officer in first court appearance (“Attorneys for two of the fired Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s death cast their clients on Thursday as rookies who were ignored by their superior, the Star Tribune reported.”)
America is awash in cameras, a double-edged sword for protesters and police (“Smartphone cameras, home security cameras, traffic cameras — digital eyes are a boon and danger to protesters.”)