Eleventh Circuit smacks down MAGA judge Aileen “toward my benefactor” Cannon

Every lawyer who discussed this novel case of the target of a legal search warrant bringing a civil suit against the United States of America, to get as much delay as possible in the US criminal investigation into his theft of classified documents, knew Judge Aileen Cannon had no jurisdiction to hear the case.  In Trump v. US she claimed equitable (fairness) jurisdiction which is only available when there is no adequate remedy at law and the result would be grossly unfair without a court stepping in.  In this case, of course, Trump had an adequate remedy at law — to contest the legality of the search warrant.  A case he never brought because there was no chance of success.   The search warrant was not only legal, it turned up the evidence described in the warrant, found in the specific places described in the warrant.

So Trump did an end-run to prevent the evidence being used against him by the Department of Justice.  Ran his shabby Hail Mary lawsuit 70 miles up the coast to a courthouse where the supremely loyal Cannon was the only federal judge there.  He managed to buy about four months of delay.   Now his incoherent lawsuit against the US government has been dismissed and the government can review the thousands of papers seized pursuant to the legal search warrant.   He’ll probably go to the Supreme Court, because, why the fuck not?   They will make a 9-0 one sentence ruling upholding the Eleventh circuit’s decision overruling Cannon’s absurd, although highly loyal, order.  The Eleventh circuit appeals panel (two Trump appointees and a Dubya Bush appointee) sent the case back to Cannon to dismiss it herself for lack of jurisdiction, which is the most humiliating way they could have ended the case.

It was a major smackdown.  If they’d upheld Cannon’s order they’d be giving permission to every subject of a search warrant to sue the government in civil court to prevent the review of criminal evidence legally seized by the government.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”

Next move — make a grim example of brand new, lawless federal MAGA judge Aileen Mercedes Canon by bringing her in front of a judicial ethics panel and disciplining her publicly. Or better still, remove her from the federal bench.

Just just let me do my routine, Your Honor

Towards the end of Lenny Bruce’s obscenity trial a policeman read Lenny Bruce’s obscene words from a transcript he’d made at the nightclub when Mr. Bruce, during his routine, was arrested for public obscenity. The policeman read Bruce’s words “Defendant said ‘Yeah, you know how that shit works, you watch it go down and all you can say is ‘fuck!'” Continuing from his notes the detective read “defendant then cocked his head to the side. There was laughter.”

Bruce, who was by then bankrupt and defending himself, jumped up to object “Your Honor, please, he’s butchering my act, he’s delivering my lines off kilter, out of time, with no nuance, irony or any hint of humor. I’m a comedian, Your Honor, and if you would just let me do my act you’d see I’m being funny. The audience gets laughs out of my material. Please, Your Honor, let me just do my act for the court, you can hear my words in context and judge for youself, but not like this. If you find that my act is obscene, in the context of my attempt to get laughs, sentence me to prison and let me just be done with this. I’m begging you, have mercy on me and let me just show you what I do. This prosecution has bankrupted me, I’m staying in a hotel and can’t afford to pay the bill, I’d rather just go to prison, Your Honor, if you find my act obscene.”

But this American judge, at that time in history, was not going to let some little filthy-mouthed, wise ass heroin addict degenerate New York Jew subject his courtroom to words like fuck shit penis cock cum pussy and God knows what else. The judge told the pro se defendant he was out of order, denied his request, ordered him to sit and be quiet, the policeman continued to massacre Bruce’s act, which he read verbatim, words which were indeed, context and intent irrelevant, legally obscene under the law of that time and place.

After the prosecution rested, Mr. Bruce asked to be sentenced, as he was broke, tapped out defending himself while banned from earning a living. The judge told Bruce he would have to come back to court in a month for sentencing.

In the Hollywood version of this, Lenny goes back to his shabby hotel room a broken man, takes off all his clothes and overdoses on heroin, dying in a naked heap next to the toilet bowl.

And the audience who sees Dustin Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of Lenny, understands, Jesus Christ, this guy was a popular, smart, very funny comedian and they literally crucified him for being an irreverent hipster and saying the F-word for laughs, making a mockery of eveything they held sacred.

“Your ‘work’ is obscene, you will serve time in prison, you will never work again. Your life as an adorable little piece of shit who can fucking say whatever comes into his demented little fucking heroin addict brain is now over, sir. Go ahead and style yourself a heroic martyr of the First Amendment, a persecuted icon of free expression. You are nothing. The law says ‘fuck you’ to your dream of being able to say whatever you fucking please to ‘get a laugh’. You’re dead and you’ll never work again, asshole. Death of despair? Be our fucking guest. Roll credits, bitches.”

Party of the People

The corporations that own the railroads in our country have been playing hardball with the unions representing railroad workers. They have cut 40,000 jobs nationwide and have been demanding increased productivity from the remaining railroad workers (while reaping record profits). Shades of the air traffic controllers demanding safer working conditions back when Reagan smashed PATCO ( the only union, incidentally that endorsed the affable old reactionary).

This time Biden brokered a stopgap deal to avoid a supply chain crippling strike right before Christmas. The worst sticking point was that there was no increase in paid sick leave for the overworked remaining railroad workers. The House of Representatives took up that sticking point, to correct a (literally) fatal defect in Biden’s workaround compromise. Here was the vote today.

Say it with me “USA!! USA!!!”

Party of the people, MAGA, the very best people, the best people.


Cults are held together by a strong, unquestionable shared belief.  If you faithfully embrace the leader’s vision, which simplifies and explains all mysteries of this perplexing world, a great psychic relief, you are happily accepted into the community of like minded folks.   Humans have practiced this form of social organization for as long as there have been humans.   There have been many kinds of cults over the centuries, some tiny, some enormous, some benign, others warlike.

In general, cults divide the world into the chosen and the excluded.   Outsiders who refuse to believe the truth that the cult embraces are most often seen as enemies.   It is Us against Them.  We are the enlightened few, the correct, the fully sighted.  They are the ignorant many, too stubbornly blind and proud to submit to the knowledge of the one true way.

In a microcosm, many families function as cults.   There is the dominant parent, or sibling, whose view of things is the truth in that family.  In the previous post I gave the example of a family of four who believed their mother/grandmother was nuts.   This explained perfectly why she was crying during the last Mother’s Day of her life, after her granddaughter had locked herself in her room in despair after being humiliated on the world wide web by her closest friends.  There was really nothing to discuss, the kid had a bad day, everyone was smiling now and everything was fine, the only problem being that grandma was nuts, which is why she was sobbing for no reason during what turned out to be the last get together with everyone closest to her in the waning days of her life.  Why else would she be crying?

Angry?  There is a perfectly good reason — your brother/sister/father/aunt is a fucking (fill in the blank.)  Would you put any evil or treachery past a malicious fuck like that?   We all agree on who’s right and who’s wrong here — except for that asshole.  Case closed.

In some families the entire story of interpersonal relations is explained through genetics and biochemistry.  Some people are born with a predisposition to depression, self-hatred, hypochondria, panic, anger, while others, the more fortunate, come fully loaded with a preponderance of genes that make them happy, content, self-contained, confident.   Just the luck of the genetic lottery, boys and girls, you could have gotten more of my wonderful genes, but you got more of the loser genes from the other contributor to your DNA.  So sorry.  You will be predisposed to suffer just like that poor soul, I wish there was something any of us could do to help.  Don’t bother with your theories of trauma, lack of support, etc.  it’s just your asshole genes trying to make excuses for not being able to get what you need in life, and your need to blame others for your shortcomings.

Cults often apply this kind of reductive reasoning to entire groups.  The cult that formed around Adolf Hitler in Germany between the world wars got a forceful answer to the cause of all of their troubles and how to fix them.  The cause of all human suffering, a worldwide cabal of powerful monsters who forced Germany into World War One, and then, after Germany was victorious on the battlefield, stabbed the German military and the German people in the back with a forced, humiliating surrender.  The way to fix it, of course, was to hang these traitors from every lamp post in Germany before they could rape more Aryan girls and further spread their hateful seed.  After the leaders were all dead you’d have iron-willed men collect the old, the children, women of childbearing age, any other males left alive and dispatch them to oblivion.  A dirty job, sure, and not for the weak, but necessary for the protection and preservation of the purest, most noble bloodline in the history of mankind.

Cult is a disparaging term when used by outsiders to describe a community of true believers.  It is a judgmental word that means people of a certain faith have substituted a flawed, sometimes even insane belief for any kind of rational discussion, ruled out the possibility of compromise of any kind with nonbelievers.   Can you persuade someone who passionately believes American liberals drink the blood of babies they rape that this is simply not so?  Good luck.  Cult to death cult is not an uncommon progression.   The leader says we are all going to paradise, all we have to do is fight like hell or we’re not going to have a paradise anymore!  Goddamn the inhuman enemy to hell!

Maybe I’m just so negative about cults because I’ve never found the one true cult to join.   There is that possibility, I guess.


My niece, when she was a toddler, began using the toilet to urinate.  She was hesitant to do the rest of her business there and her mother asked her why.   “It’s very dangerous!” my little niece apparently said, with great conviction.   The seriousness with which she delivered her answer made it a great laugh line in the family for many years, though we never learned what the actual danger was.   

The last Mother’s Day of my mother’s life, a week or so before she was taken to the hospice to die, was one of the saddest days I can remember.   Her daughter, my sister, had long been operating under the principle that our mother was “kookoo for Cocoa Puffs.”   The phrase harkens back to an ad for sugary cereal that ran for a while when we were kids.   The mascot, a very excitable cartoon bird, apparently a kookaburra (famous for its hysterically laughing call), went wild for the delicious cereal, bouncing off the walls and squawking “kookoo for Cocoa Puffs!” over and over as it freaked out.   Saying our mother was kookoo for Cocoa Puffs was a cute way of saying she was batshit crazy.   When my mother “lost” her wedding ring, her mother’s solid gold bracelet, the one with the little photos of our family lovingly cut out and pasted into sections of a little gold orb that opened and  expanded like an accordian, it was because she was kookoo for Cocoa Puffs.   When my mother was pissy that her daughter and grandchildren never thanked her for anything she bought them, same verdict.

During that last meal with the family, gathered around our dying mother’s kitchen table, many meaningful looks were shot behind the old woman’s back.  She’d say something and eyes would quickly roll, facial expressions would flash all around, silently and constantly, “phew, nuts, eh?”  My sister, her husband and her children were convinced of the old lady’s lost grip on reality.  She was nuts, and they humored her, if barely.In the end my mother started to cry, which they felt proved their point. 

I never found my mother to be the least bit nuts, except when she was in a situation where everyone was pretending.  That shit drove her crazy.  A week or two before she died, a new hospice nurse met her with a small group of hospice workers.  I heard them all laughing from my mother’s bedroom.  When the nurse came out, she said to me, with a big smile,  “whatever else you want to say about her, your mother is sharp as a tack.”

Meanwhile, before an early dinner on that final Mother’s Day, there had been a tense negotiation, for the hours leading up to that carefree meal, with numerous phone calls back and forth, due to a serious, ongoing suicide threat.  A door had been slammed and locked, wailing tears from within, nobody could reason with the inconsolable teenager who’d been humiliated on line, as teenagers are when their friends turn mean.   It had apparently been touch and go for a while, until finally the younger brother quietly talked his way into the room and was able to calm his sister down.   They arrived a few hours later, big smiles on all their faces, with Chinese take-out and the firm conviction that grandma was insane.   It was an excruciating experience.  A few days later a van from the hospice came and took my mother to her deathbed.

I have that same tic my mother had when faced with dishonesty, selectively poor memory, a failure to acknowledge when my feelings are hurt, an insistence that I’m crazy and the people insisting on my insanity are beyond criticism, no matter what they have to do.  After my mother’s funeral I mentioned a historical fact, someone’s prior marriage, that sent my sister into a frenzy.  She desperately made the slashing “ixnay!!! ixnay!!!” gesture across her throat to get me to stop talking.  The prior marriage was, for some reason, a humiliating secret that left my sister no choice but to lie to her daughter about it.   It upset me to be called a liar, and in my confusion I held my tongue.   The next day, when we spoke alone, my sister promised to clear things up afterwards, but put so many conditions on when and how, that it took over a year and then, she explained, the conditions were still never right.   After a year she was hurt and very angry that I still had an issue with being called a fucking liar.  A year!   My fucking insane brother only knows one thing — how to hold a fucking grudge.

My mother’s funeral was more than twelve years ago.  Now, in my sister’s mind — twelve fucking years later my brother is still upset that I inadvertently called him a fucking liar and that there was a slight delay in telling my children the demanding, judgmental asshole hadn’t lied.  Is there no statute of limitations on his insane, prosecutorial bullshit?  What about love?  What about fucking love?  My brother wouldn’t know love if it came up and lied to his face!

Call me kookoo for Cocoa Puffs, but to me love does not include a need to lie whenever necessary, a pass for all hurtful behavior, a license to do whatever you feel you need to do to someone else, whenever you feel hurt or upset, with a lifetime entitlement to unlimited, unconditional understanding, kndness and graciousness.  That’s something, we can all agree, but I’m not sure we can call it love.   

For one thing, it is a one way expectation, since the party insisting on it does not extend the same privileges of unlimited forgiveness to the other.  For another thing, without authenticity, what is there between two people?

Being authentic means being honest.  In an intimate relationship it means being honest while taking care with other people’s pain when they feel they’re not getting what they need from you.  To some people it hurts too fucking much to consider making themselves vulnerable that way.  They tend to believe that we all have our own perspective, our own reality, that nothing anyone you love says is necessarily true or false.  This essential solipsism is untouchably real to someone to whom the pain of rejection is much more terrifying than accepting that we are, on the most basic level, eternally unknowable to each other.   The price of maintaining this kind of solipsistic relationship is very high if you are so kookoo for Cocoa Puffs that you insist on difficult abstractions like honesty, apology when someone is aware they’ve hurt you and so on.   If you can’t love and forgive without conditions, they insist, you are not worth loving.

And, of course, they are completely right.  You certainly will never be able to convince them that they are not, since it is humiliating to them to ever admit being wrong or acting hurtfully.   You know them well enough to know what will make them tense up, set their faces, become cold, whenever they feel you are criticizing them.  You are prying open an unbearably painful primal wound, proceed in the face of resistance only if you want to end things.

Sometimes, even with your best efforts, relationships you love, that have long been a source of comfort and security, will end.  It can be very, very hard to move on, but sometimes it is necessary for everybody.   Sad, and true, as death itself.

How dare you?!

“How dare you use us as characters in your mordidly self-regarding ‘fiction’?!” she said, glaring just the slightest bit.

“And I’m not glaring, you sick, judgmental weasel, I know how you twist everything. I’m simply looking at someone who’s acting with despicable arrogance and responding appropriately,” she said, drawing a clear line between herself and someone like him.

“As you wish,” he said, turning away and making another notation on his pad.

“Yeah,” she said, “that’s right, write down everything I say.  It’s all just your distorted perspective anyway, it’s no truer than anyone else’s perspective and certainly not as true as my perspective, having known you for fifty years and having humiliating secrets I could reveal, if you force me to with your passive aggressiveness.”

“Fifty years of humiliating details,” he said, nodding and making another note.

“I wish you would stop with the goddamned notes,” she said, “it’s annoying, distracting and, frankly, very aggressive.”

“As you wish,” he said with a smile, closing the cover of his pad and laying the pen on top of it.

“Now you expect me to start the conversation,” she said.

“Not at all,” he said.  “I was thinking what a great idea it was at that wedding in Ohio to seat everyone next to someone the hosts thought you’d hit it off with.   You recall, I wound up drawing the high card that night, that guy seated next to me was a mechaya, as my father would have said of such a person, like a cool drink on a mercilessly hot day.  He was funny, smart, deep thinking, ironic, comfortable in his skin, down to earth, agreeable but opinionated.   A great idea, to seat people among other people they can meet and enjoy.”

“And your point?” she asked.

“We should have assigned seating like that for our divorce party,” he said.

“Our divorce party, you said?”

“Well, we’d have done it at our wedding, if we’d been wise enough, although nobody is that wise at that age.  Now we have a perfect second chance to do it right.  Invite all these wonderful people we love to our divorce party and assign them seats next to someone else we think they’d get a kick out of.  How about Al and Nancy?  Would they not hit it off?”

“Our divorce party?” she said.

“Al and Nancy, come on, Barbara, would they not hit it off and become fast friends?  They’re practically the same person,” he said.

“Al and Nancy on a blind date at our divorce party?” she said.

“OK, you just want to keep focusing on the occasion, I’m talking about the beauty of introducing people who are sympatico, souls who’d really appreciate each other.  You realize that guy I sat next to at the wedding would have been one of my favorite colleagues in a different world.   At one point I described one of the best books about atrocity and politics ever written, a very short, brilliantly compressed, beautifully written account of the media attention, and long term political fallout, from a certain pogrom that became instantly front page news everywhere only because a member of the Zionist movement hopped the first train out and telegraphed from a nearby town while the two day kill-fest was going on in a remote part of the Russian empire.  It turned out a friend of his wrote the book, which he hadn’t read but intended to get a copy of now.  He’s going to tell Steven Zipperstein that his Pogrom is a masterpiece.” 

“You really are an asshole,” she said.

“So you keep telling me,” he said, opening his drawing book again and drawing a graphic, three dimensional vulva.

“You think you can just write down whatever comes into your twisted head and then put it on the internet for some random lonely kid in India to read and that makes you a writer.  Writers have editors, agents, publicists, get paid to write.  I have no idea why you think just writing things down has any value except as a means of expressing your endless frustrations and dressing them up with the occasional ‘insight’ you get from somebody else’s writing,” she said.

“I don’t,” he said, turning to a blank page and scrawling a note to himself.

History of Thanksgiving


The past week has brought seven mass shootings in the United States. Twenty-two people have been killed and 44 wounded. I’ll have more to say later about our epidemic of gun violence, but tonight, on the night before Thanksgiving, when I traditionally post the story of the holiday’s history, I simply want to acknowledge the terrible sorrow behind tomorrow’s newly empty chairs.

Thanksgiving itself came from a time of violence: the Civil War.

The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest celebration together at Plymouth in fall 1621, but that moment got forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers’ attacks on their Indigenous neighbors.

In 1841 a book that reprinted the early diaries and letters from the Plymouth colony recovered the story of that three-day celebration in which ninety Indigenous Americans and the English settlers shared fowl and deer. This story of peace and goodwill among men who by the 1840s were more often enemies than not inspired Sarah Josepha Hale, who edited the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, to think that a national celebration could ease similar tensions building between the slaveholding South and the free North. She lobbied for legislation to establish a day of national thanksgiving.

And then, on April 12, 1861, southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, and the meaning of a holiday for giving thanks changed.

Southern leaders wanted to destroy the United States of America and create their own country, based not in the traditional American idea that “all men are created equal,” but rather in its opposite: that some men were better than others and had the right to enslave their neighbors. In the 1850s, convinced that society worked best if a few wealthy men ran it, southern leaders had bent the laws of the United States to their benefit, using it to protect enslavement above all.

In 1860, northerners elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency to stop rich southern enslavers from taking over the government and using it to cement their own wealth and power. As soon as he was elected, southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union to set up their own country. After the firing on Fort Sumter, Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party set out to end the slaveholders’ rebellion.

The early years of the war did not go well for the U.S. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering and to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays.

New York governor Edwin Morgan’s widely reprinted proclamation about the holiday reflected that the previous year “is numbered among the dark periods of history, and its sorrowful records are graven on many hearthstones.” But this was nonetheless a time for giving thanks, he wrote, because “the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”

The next year Lincoln got ahead of the state proclamations. On July 15 he declared a national day of Thanksgiving, and the relief in his proclamation was almost palpable. After two years of disasters, the Union army was finally winning. Bloody, yes; battered, yes; but winning. At Gettysburg in early July, Union troops had sent Confederates reeling back southward. Then, on July 4, Vicksburg had finally fallen to U. S. Grant’s army. The military tide was turning.

President Lincoln set Thursday, August 6, 1863, for the national day of Thanksgiving. On that day, ministers across the country listed the signal victories of the U.S. Army and Navy in the past year and reassured their congregations that it was only a matter of time until the United States government put down the southern rebellion. Their predictions acknowledged the dead and reinforced the idea that their sacrifice had not been in vain.

In October 1863, President Lincoln declared a second national day of Thanksgiving. In the past year, he declared, the nation had been blessed.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, he wrote, Americans had maintained their laws and their institutions and had kept foreign countries from meddling with their nation.

They had paid for the war as they went, refusing to permit the destruction to cripple the economy. Instead, as they funded the war, they had also advanced farming, industry, mining, and shipping. Immigrants had poured into the country to replace men lost on the battlefield, and the economy was booming.

And Lincoln had recently promised that the government would end slavery once and for all. The country, he predicted, “with a large increase of freedom,” would survive, stronger and more prosperous than ever. The president invited Americans “in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands” to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving.

The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

In 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front to create a government that defended democracy and equality before the law.

And they won.

My best to you all for Thanksgiving 2022.


© 2022 Heather Cox Richardson
548 Market Street PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104