"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Fake News Is Coming From Inside The (White) House!

So Comey is a liar, and McCabe, a witness as to what Comey did, is a liar, and Trump is the only person we can trust? Trump and his Cabinet of grifters.  And Comey and McCabe have to be fired because we can't trust them, but we can trust Trump?

Yeah, sure.  Besides, I thought Nixon talking to the pictures was bad:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Never Trust Anyone Over 30!, or: Boomers Ate My Homework!

Well, let's see:

So if we unseat the boomers from Congress, from state legislatures, and certainly from the presidency over the next three to seven years, then I think we can undo the damage. But that will require a much higher tax rate and a degree of social solidarity that the country hasn’t seen in over 50 years.

Now, the "problem" boomers are, by his definition:

The baby boomers are conventionally defined as people born between 1946 and 1964. But I focus on the first two-thirds of boomers because their experiences are pretty homogeneous: They were raised after the war and so have no real experience of trauma or the Great Depression or even any deprivation at all. More importantly, they never experienced the social solidarity that unfolded during war time and that helped produce the New Deal.

So that would carry the people born as late as 1958, who will reach retirement age in 6 more years.   But, of course, politicians don't have to retire, so the only recourse is to not vote for anyone over the age of 30, which will make sure you elect millennials, who are the new saviors of the world.  You know, like the Boomers were going to be.

Sorry, Generation X, you get passed over again.  This is a major cohort battle, and you just don't count.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Bruce Gibney is a white guy.  And I'm right!  Not only that, he's a Peter Thiel buddy, a co-founder of PayPal, who now thinks Boomers are all sociopaths because he's looked around and found the world is not as perfect as he expected it to be by now!  Why did I think he was a white guy?  No mention at all of civil rights, gay rights, feminism, multiculturalism, all the social movements that Boomers championed and which Millenials (and X'ers; Gibney is probably an X'er, though he seems cagey about his age.  I can't find even a birth year anywhere on line, in a cursory search) take for granted.  That "social solidarity" he's talking about was what brought about changes in society (and law) that we are still wrestling with.

Not that Sean Illing is a vast improvement:

I’ve always seen the boomers as a generational trust-fund baby: They inherited a country they had no part in building, failed to appreciate it, and seized on all the benefits while leaving nothing behind.

Bruce Gibney

I think that’s exactly right. They were born into great fortune and had a blast while they were on top. But what have they left behind?


Sean Illing

Something that doesn’t get discussed enough is how hostile so many of these boomers are to science. It’s not hard to connect this aversion to facts to some of these disastrous social policies.

Let's see:  Gen X started in 1965, ran to 1983, Millennials start in 1984, run to 2002.  The youngest X'ers have been voting since 1983 (Reagan's era), the youngest Millenials since 2002, "elderly" voters from the pre-Boomer generation are still among us (not in vast numbers, true), but all the faults of the nation are on those born between 1946 and 1958?  I think I heard this argument when I was a teenager, right down to the people being blamed.

I think we've found the fantasy and spoiled...well, not generation, surely.

The best part of the discussion between Illing and Gibney is how fact-free it is.  Honestly, some of the stuff Vox posts (most of it Illing's, IMHO) is not worth the pixels it takes to generate it.  Then again, the solution would seem to be to ignore it.  One thing I've learned as an aging Boomer is that the world is full of crap, and the best response to it is not to be a contributor.

Or at least try not to be.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  (It's still Lent, right?  I really should work harder at that.)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Not Giving Up Anything For Lent

rustypickup dropped this link in comments, and noted how the believers in the article seemed to think Trump is a messianic figure.   I'll get to that, but I want to start with this quote, because it is my lived experience of church and ecclesiology in a nutshell.  The context is the number of blacks attending majority-white evangelical churches (and I note already the reverse is not reported on, because it would be as rare as hen's teeth.  I have attended worship at two black churches in my adult memory; one of them because I was the guest pastor.  I have never been more warmly received nor attended a more loving worship service in my life, although I don't disparage by that the churches I have attended.  I simply mean I didn't feel out of place at all, though I can't say the reverse would be true for an African-American in the white churches I've attended or been a member of.)  The statement is this:

“We were willing to give up our preferred worship style for the chance to really try to live this vision of beloved community with a diverse group of people,” she said. “That didn’t work.”

And can I say that, as a pastor at my last church, I had conversations like this (though not exactly on this subject) which ended on the same note?

The woman explained that a Trump victory had been prophesied and handed Ms. Pruitt a two-page printout, which began: “The Spirit of God says, ‘I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this.’” Barack Obama, the woman continued, should never have been president, since he was not born a United State citizen. The visit ended with the woman suggesting that Ms. Pruitt’s discomfort at the church was God telling her it was time to move on. 
The main thrust of the article is that, whatever the congregation wants the pastor both provides and agrees with (the nature of evangelical non-denominational churches in a nutshell).  If you have "a $140 million ministry, drawing upward of 31,000 people a week to six campuses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," with "a coffee kiosk serving a [church proprietary] blend...the worship music booming over a first-class sound system [and] robust programs for children, single parents and a host of other groups," you're not doing that by preaching jeremiads, or reminding people of the missions to the poor.  But what do I mean in concreto?

Three months later, Ms. Smith’s father, the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas, would introduce a resolution condemning the alt-right at the annual Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. Unlike the resolutions condemning gambling and Planned Parenthood, his alt-right resolution didn’t make it out of committee.

Pastor McKissic was told that racism had already been adequately addressed by the Southern Baptists, that the resolution was inflammatory and that sympathy for the alt-right was not an issue in the church. Word leaked, embarrassing the convention, and a new version of the resolution was reintroduced and overwhelmingly passed, albeit with some language changed and with an added tally of the Southern Baptists’ past efforts against racism.
See no evil, hear no evil, there is no evil, and everybody is happy because white people are happiest when you don't disturb their slumber.  Nor do they really want to think about what they are saying:

“I wasn’t wrestling,” Pastor Morris said of his feelings in 2016, going on to explain that he was not wrestling now, either. “We were electing what we felt was the person who held the values that the church loves dearly the most. That doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. But I do believe after spending time with him that he really wants to learn, that he really wants to do a good job for all Americans. I really do.”

A man who can make such obscene remarks about women, who is now known to have paid for sex and silence, is a man who "held the values that the church loves dearly the most"?  Aside from Trump's open racism which Morris and others clearly don't see, how is that statement even possible?

I've encountered a fair number of disgruntled commenters (not here, elsewhere) who want to blame religious belief for the world's political ills, but there doesn't seem to be any religious belief in these people, except that belief that God agrees with them and that makes them happy that their political ideology lines up with the deity and the electoral outcome in 2016 (there's no mention of the losses since then, but apparently that doesn't matter.  Their grasp of how American democracy works seems as weak as Trump's, but that's another story.).  There's nothing really hindering or helping about religion for the people quoted in the article; well, the white people, anyway.  They like the way things are working out, God's in His Heaven and all's right with the world, so why wrestle?  Right?

Which makes the churches mentioned in the NYT pretty much private clubs rather than religious institutions.  I don't mean to condemn the churches by that, I just mean to say any kind of religious belief at all seems pretty tenuous next to their political convictions.  They are not challenged by religion, they are comforted by their position in American society and who is in the White House (no longer the black man who was going to do terrible things to them).  Clearly "the values that the churches loves dearly" are political ones, not ethical ones, moral ones, ones having to do with social justice, with concern for the poor, with the statement of Micah 6:8 about what the God of Abraham requires of you (which is rather a low bar, actually).  They are extremely comfortable and they want to stay extremely comfortable and they don't want to hear even a hint that God might expect something else of them except that they enjoy their comfort and that their preferred candidates hold public office.

And what is religious about that, I'd like to know?  I mean in the sense of being a significant difference from non-religious political ideologues?  Their convictions are political; it is the stain on their wood, so to speak.  Religion is no more than the varnish that makes the stain shiny.  The varnish wears away, and has to be reapplied from time to time; but the stain is permanent.  They may change the varnish a bit; the stain will never be altered.

One is fundamental; one is merely topical.  Their political ideology is permanent; religion is merely the sheen they put on it.  And if "religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all," how are they religious?

So maybe they do think Trump is their messiah, their political savior.  He is only saving them from the discomfort of having a non-arch conservative Democrat in the White House.  But that is really all the salvation they seek:  salvation from the minor anxiety of the political ideology of the President of the United States.  What that President actually does, who that President actually is, is not even important.  As long as they are comfortable, and comforted, that's all that matters.

Which is not religious at all; it's just blind selfishness.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Too much low-hanging fruit

No, Rasmussen has your approval exactly at 44%, with 54% disapproval., by the way, has the Rasmussen poll of March 6-8 rated at a "C+".  The Marist poll, rated "A," for March 5-6 has an approval rating of 42%, a disapproval rating of 50%.  You can read the Axios link for comparisons to Obama's favorability ratings.  Basically Trump still has to look up to see Obama's lowest numbers.  50% is "close" to 44% the same way a lightning bug is close to lightning.

And remember that canard that Trump "won" the popular vote, if you just discount the vote from California?  Trump does:

“‘Women won’t like Donald Trump,’” he portrayed critics as having said during his campaign.

“I said, have I really had that kind of a problem? I don’t think so. But, ‘Women won’t like Donald Trump. It will be a rough night for Donald Trump because the women won’t come out.’ We got 52 percent, right? 52. And I’m running against a woman. You know, it’s not that easy,” he said, referring to his presidential political rival, Hillary Clinton.

Except Trump won only 41% of the women's vote.  He did win 52% of the white women's vote, but I guess those are the only ones who should vote, right?

Fake news much?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why must everyone laugh at my mighty sword?

And he's going to be so surprised to hear there's this thing called the WTO:

Celery stalks at midnight, and it keeps him up late.

You Could Look It Up

Yeah, about that:  you are the head of the Administration, which includes the U.S Trade Representative.  Earlier today you said:


Japan is currently our 4th largest goods trading partner with $195.5 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2016. Goods exports totaled $63.3 billion; goods imports totaled $132.2 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan was $68.9 billion in 2016.
Fake news much?

Friday, March 09, 2018

Child with loaded shotgun terrorizes family

This lasted about as long as I expected it to:

Perched in the Oval Office, President Trump floored his own advisors and left his South Korean guests flabbergasted when he agreed — just like that — to accept an offer to meet nuclear-armed dictator Kim Jong Un.

Successive White Houses had deeply considered and roundly rejected such offers, haunted by visions of John F. Kennedy’s disastrous 1961 meeting with Nikita Khrushchev that fueled the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Unencumbered by that historical baggage, this neophyte president agreed to meet Kim without consulting his team, not least Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was half the world away in Addis Ababa.

Trump’s boosters were quick to spin the decision as evidence of political brilliance — the president had browbeaten North Korea to the negotiating table, and then been big enough to accept their capitulation.

More than one Trump supporter imagined a trip to Oslo may be on the cards. “President Trump should be well on his way to his own Nobel Peace Prize,” said Republican Congressman Luke Messer.

And leave it to a GOP Congresscritter to get that far out over his skis.  Watch out, Messer, here comes the agony of defeat:

A meeting by May at a place to be determined is now replaced with a meeting at some place and at some time. The fixed time before which seems gone. Sanders also spoke of needing to see concrete and verifiable steps toward denuclearization for the summit to happen. But from what we understood last night, nothing like that was promised. What was apparently promised was suspending further nuclear or ballistic missile tests before the meeting and presumably in a subsequent period of negotiation or normalization. There’s no need to verify any of this. The US can tell very easily when a ballistic missile is fired or when there’s a nuclear test.

Because according to the NYT according to JMM:

Behind the scenes, events unfolded even more haphazardly. Mr. Trump was not scheduled to meet Mr. Chung until Friday, but when he heard that the envoy was in the West Wing seeing other officials, the president summoned him to the Oval Office, according to a senior administration official.

Mr. Trump, the official said, then asked Mr. Chung to tell him about his meeting with Mr. Kim. When Mr. Chung said that the North Korean leader had expressed a desire to meet Mr. Trump, the president immediately said he would do it, and directed Mr. Chung to announce it to the White House press corps.

Mr. Chung, nonplused, said he first needed approval from Mr. Moon, who quickly granted it in a phone call. Mr. Trump later called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, and the two discussed coordinating diplomatic efforts. Mr. Trump also plans to call President Xi Jinping of China.
Child with loaded shotgun terrorizes family and orders 300 pizzas.  Family hastens to cancel order.  It's worth quoting Mr. Marshall one more time, just to make that point clear:

He didn’t just not ask. There doesn’t even seem to have been an actual invitation – or at least that was not what the South Koreans believed they were coming to discuss. The President ordered the South Korean representative, Mr. Chung, to the Oval Office and proceeded to quiz him about his meeting with Kim. Chung mentioned Kim’s eagerness to meet with Trump and Trump said he would do it. This seems to have come as quite a surprise and Mr. Chung said he had to get sign off from the South Korean President. In such a situation, it would be hard for the South Koreans to refuse the stated desire of the President of the United States and they may not necessarily have wanted to. The key point is that this was the product of the President riffing with no guidance.

Vanity Fair says:

With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses. “Trump is in command. He’s been in the job more than a year now. He knows how the levers of power work. He doesn’t give a fuck,” the Republican said. Trump’s decision to circumvent the policy process and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum reflects his emboldened desire to follow his impulses and defy his advisers. “It was like a fuck-you to Kelly,” a Trump friend said. “Trump is red-hot about Kelly trying to control him.”

It seems Trump is “frustrated by all these people telling him what to do.”  You know, like his SOS, his foreign policy advisors, his staff members (who, though?) who might actually know what it takes to prepare a summit meeting between world leaders.  Even somebody who could point out a meeting with the leader of North Korea would be North Korea's fondest wish.  How bad is it?

In normal administrations, the idea of a summit would be kicked around almost to death, before a range of options are served up to the president for decision.

More often than not, there would be one unacceptably meek option, one with eye-watering political risk and a third “Goldilocks” option which the experts think is just right.

That process is why the National Security Council was invented.

The NSC takes the temperature of the great offices of state — Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA — and figures out where interests meet and how pitfalls can be avoided.

But Trump has turned the process on its head, deciding first then leaving aides to make the policy and equities fit.

“They are scrambling right now,” said Kelly Magsamen, a veteran of the NSC, State Department and Pentagon.

“Regardless of whether it’s a heads-of-state summit coming too early or not, I don’t think the Trump team has an actual diplomatic negotiating strategy in place.”

Trump don' need no steenken' negotiating strategy!  Trump don' need no steenken' National Security Council!  Trump is a stable genius!  He can just act on his impulses.

Now the question is:  who's going to take the shotgun away from the child?

Who knew?

So, a lie really is half-way around the world before Truth can get its boots on?

Today, the journal Science has published a study validating this pattern — at least when it comes to the spread of misinformation on Twitter. The study analyzed millions of tweets sent between 2006 and 2017 and came to this chilling conclusion: “Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.” It also found that “the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.”

Isn't science wonderful?  What will they think of next?  I hear "fire" is an intriguing concept.....

Wrinkling A Bit More Than Time

To begin with, I'm not going to see the movie version of "A Wrinkle in Time" because what I've seen of it in trailers so violates my memories of the book (one of my favorites, still) that I'm not interested.  The three "witches" are portrayed in the book as old women of the type so commonly discarded as "old" and even "witches," when they are anything but (they aren't even human).  The film version gives them bizarre makeup and comically colorful costumes that seem designed simply to be seen in film, and nothing more.

But it's more than that, and the film is now prompting some interesting discussions of Madeleine L'Engle's Christianity in circles where I wouldn't expect to find it.

Jennifer Lee, the screenwriter of the film, seems to have started things off with this quote about the screenplay and the source material:

The book is pretty open about its Christian ideals and the movie doesn’t directly reference them. As a fan of the book how do you approach that aspect?

What I looked at, one of the reasons Madeleine L’Engle – as I’ve been told; I never got to meet her – but one of the reasons it had that strong Christian element to it wasn’t just because she was Christian, but because she was frustrated with things that needed to be said to her in the world and she wasn’t finding a way to say it and she wanted to stay true to her faith. And I respect that and I understand those feelings of things you want to say in the world that need to be said that are out there. In a good way, I think there are a lot of elements of what she wrote that we have progressed as a society and we can move onto the other elements. In a sad way, some of the other elements are more important right now and bigger – sort of this fight of light against darkness. It’s a universal thing and timeless and seems to be a battle that has to keep being had.
It also feels like this is a movie that celebrates inclusiveness and diversity, so having it be about one religious denomination wouldn’t really be keeping with that theme. Does that make sense?

It does. And I can’t put words in her mouth – and I worked with one of our producers, Catherine Hand, who was very close to her – but that wasn’t her intention. Her intention was looking at the ordinary real hero in an extraordinary situation. The power of love in this world, and we stayed very true to that. And her lens through it was Christianity and everyone has a different lens in. And that’s what inclusiveness is to me in this film, is really looking at all of us have a role to play in this no matter where we come from or what we look like.

I should say upfront that movie adaptations are problematic.  The film version of "The Hobbit" added too much backstory from The Lord of the Rings, but the movie version of LOTR made the arch-archaic style of the novels almost unreadable because the film (with some unfortunate lapses) is so much more enjoyable than the books (the dialogue alone is a vast improvement).  Still, I have a vague memory of John Updike writing an essay about the film version of his novel The Witches of Eastwick, where he argued that if you like the movie, you should read the book.  I enjoyed Updike's novel (I was going through a phase), but not being a fantasy writer he didn't include scenes of witchcraft which would call upon special effects to replicate in film.  In film, however, the word "Witches" in a title means special effects had better be involved, and they were; not to the benefit of the story the movie told, which was not exactly the story the book told in any case (again to the detriment of the movie).  It's in the nature of adaptations, in other words, to change the source material, and I wasn't going to see a movie of a book I love so much, anyway.  But this discussion of L'Engle's Christianity is one I can't step away from.

Holly Scheer argued, solely on the basis of that Jennifer Lee interview, that removing Christianity from the story removes the "soul" of the story.  That was a prediction because the film wasn't available for her review, but Tara Isabella Burton and Alissa Wilkinson and Aisha Harris all basically agree with her.  And that, to me, is fascinating.

What is most interesting is the idea that Christianity is not confined to the evangelical brand.  Granted, the reviewers are at various pains to distinguish L'Engle's religions belief as Episcopalian, and Burton name-drops both Kierkegaard and Tillich as, basically, dog whistles (or gravitas, take your pick).  What is not noted, but is even more important to L'Engle's Christianity in the novel, is how it is used, as it is in the Harry Potter novels, to illustrate the power of powerlessness.  Oh, and the fact that the protagonists of both stories are trying to save individuals, not the world.

From the reviews it seems the movie doesn't change the ending of the novel, at least not fundamentally.  Apparently Meg and Calvin and Charles Wallace (who is adopted in the movie, but Meg's biological brother in the novel, a change, frankly, I'm a bit wary about because of the ending) are enlisted as "warriors" in the movie.  I don't remember any such speech in the novel (my copy is in a box somewhere just now; bookshelves have been moved for some remodeling, nothing is where it should be), and it indeed seems antithetical to the idea of the "witches" as angels, and certainly contrary to the character of Aunt Beast (maybe that's why she's not in the movie).  The significance of the ending of the story is that Meg doesn't win through reason (her father tries to protect her from IT* by having her recite the periodic table of the elements, but that is too rational, too easy for IT to control), but through love.  But Meg realizes her love has to be directed, has to be specific, in order to be real.  She can't love IT, but neither does she need to.  She can love Charles Wallace; she can remember his life as her baby brother, and it is her love that frees him when Charles Wallace is lost to IT because Charles Wallace thought he could, rationally, resist IT.  Meg doesn't defeat it, or banish the darkness, or even save the world.  She rescues Charles Wallace, her brother.

Harry Potter does something of the same, although his sacrifice is more literal than Meg's.  Meg goes alone to confront IT.  Harry goes alone to confront Voldemort, and after his resurrection (what else can you call it?) he defeats Voldemort not with a killing spell, but with his preferred spell in battle:  disarming his opponent by removing their wand.  When I was a kid the heroes in Westerns always managed the impossible shot of shooting the bad guys gun from his hand; it was considered less violent than shooting the bad guy outright, and proof the good guy was never, ever, a killer.  Harry continues in that pattern, but again he doesn't save the world, he saves his friends (and he doesn't save them all).  There is a very Christian humility in that.  The hero helps a few people, suffers losses him/herself, but the struggle goes on.  But most importantly, the hero wins not through power, but through the lack of power.

Even Frodo prevails not because, in the end, his heart is pure, but because Gollum's desire for the ring never leaves him.  In the end the fall of Sauron is predicated on an accident, not on the best laid plans of elves and wizards and men.  The powerlessness of Gollum is greater than the greatest power of Middle Earth.  Harry's sacrifice for his friends is greater than the selfishness of Voldemort.  Meg's love for Charles Wallace is stronger than the grip of IT over Charles' mind.

No one felt compelled to remove the Christianity from Tolkien's story (it's there as much as it is in "Harry Potter."), nor from Rowling's novels.  Maybe between Tolkien and Rowling, L'Engle made her Christianity just a bit more apparent, and that's why it had to be excised.  I'm not sure what ideas the screenwriter thinks we have "moved beyond," but I think it more likely there were ideas there she simply wasn't conversant with.  Aisha Harris noted that: "In casting Winfrey as the sage leader of the Misses, A Wrinkle in Time milks her life-coach persona for all it’s got...."  Which, from the reviews, seems to have been the intent:

[The film] wears an earnest message on its sleeve ― believe in yourself and love those around you, and you’ll achieve your goals ― and leaves the fundamental building blocks at the door.
The novel is earnest (and earnestly funny, though perhaps the humor is too mordant.  More than one review noted the opening line of the novel:  "It was a dark and stormy night."  Not one review, however, noted the nod to Edward Bulwer-Lytton in that line.  Sometimes humor is wasted on adults.), but it never wears its message on its sleeve.  Certainly not a message which sounds like an Oprah Winfrey sermonette.  Seemingly, that's no accident:

Oprah’s stentorian boom delivering pithy counsel straight out of a “Super Soul Sunday” episode? Kinda soothing. 

If this is what we've "moved beyond," then "beyond" is not exactly movement in the right direction.

Then again, it's an adaptation, things have to be moved about.  It would probably have been better to make two movies of the novel, instead of one.  Or to leave it to serialization on, say, Netflix.  Some of the best storytelling on film, outside a Scorsese picture, is being done in TV length films meant to run for 13 hours, instead of less than 2.

Or, if you like the movie, you could just read the book.

*which, per many reviews, I can only conclude becomes "the It" in the movie, a ruinous change I simply cannot fathom.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Maybe they just need more practice

Josh Marshall points out the agreement between Trump, Daniels, and "EC" lists four persons who are in possession of "property" Trump doesn't want disclosed.

Josh is right, it's a remarkably badly drafted portion of the contract.  "PP has directly or indirectly disclosed...any of the Property to any Third Party...other than the following persons or entities," the Agreement reads, and then lists four persons, two of whom Josh can account for, two of whom are mysteries. 

According to that tweet above, the mystery may be solved:  April Ryan is apparently the woman who accused Trump, because Gina Rodriguez hasn't made any such accusation, and JMM has her reasons for being listed in the Agreement.  Which can only mean there are other shoes to drop here, and if the agreement can't be enforced against Daniels, there's no constraint on Ryan under this agreement (maybe she has a separate agreement with Trump, but that's another matter).

I'll just go on to note the agreement says "PP shall not be responsible for any subsequent public disclosure....and any such disclosure shall be deemed a breach of this agreement by PP."  So which is it?  Is PP not responsible for subsequent disclosures?  If so, how is any such disclosure a breach of the agreement, even if it's made by a third party?

I left out the middle bit, which tries to identify who cannot disclose what, but makes a complete hash of it.  I still remember the basic rules of contract construction, i.e., what rules the court follows to straighten out what the parties meant v. what the document says, and this clause seems particularly unenforceable.  It's pretty clear the "not" in that sentence belongs in the sentence quoted earlier (where "PP has directly. etc."), and does not belong in this sentence.  But then what does this mean?

(a) attributable directly to each of them; and/or (b) not disclosed hereinabove as a previously disclosed PP Disclosed Individual/Entities [that's a defined term, it refers to the list of persons JMM it talking about], and any such disclosure, [etc.].
I can't make head or tails of that.   (b) seems to hold PP accountable for disclosing all persons who should be covered by the agreement, but (a) makes no sense unless you remove the "not" from "PP shall not be responsible."  Except that's not what the document says, and since Trump and EC brought this document to Daniels, it has to be construed against them (i.e., it's their contract, they should have proofread it better).  And with the "not" there, it's a meaningless phrase.

This thing really is a joke.

The More We Practice to Deceive....

I worked on a lawsuit once where we ran the plaintiff through a series of procedural hoops trying to ferret out who was really suing our client.  It was a contract dispute, and part of the problem was the plaintiff had sued individually, but the evidence in discovery made clear he was representing a large number of people, family investors in the business meant to be created by the contract.

We had to find out who was really suing our client, which is to say, who was actually a party to this contract.  Non-parties to a contract have no standing to enforce it, usually.  Which brings us to this fascinating Slate article, which examines the legal issues at play in the law suit against the confidentiality agreement entered into by Stormy Daniels and...well, who?

The buzz right now is that, if Trump's signature is not on the agreement, there is no contract.  As the Slate analysis points out, it's not that simple.*  To put it almost too simply, if Ms. Daniels cashed the check pursuant to the written agreement, that pretty much creates a contract that the other party can enforce.  But the interesting question is:  who is the other party?

Sure enough, Trump’s seismograph-like signature does not appear on the agreement, either as himself or by his latest alleged nom de plume, “David Dennison.” But if Clifford deposited the check, the court might view that act as a unilateral ratification of her end of the agreement. If a court interprets the parties’ conduct as evincing the existence of a contract, it wouldn’t then matter whether either party signed.

That's the fact Daniels' lawsuit rests on, that Trump didn't sign this agreement, period.  If he didn't, who is the party to this agreement?  The argument may be one of agency, that Cohen signed as agent for Trump or "David Dennison."  According to the Complaint, Cohen did sign, but on behalf of an entity known as "EC," an entity allegedly created for the purpose of laundering the money paid by Trump to Daniels.  Despite Trump not signing the agreement, Cohen wired the money to Daniels, per Daniels' lawsuit.  But still, to my mind, there's a question:  if Cohen wired the money, and if Cohen can't show the money came from Trump (news reports are that Cohen was never reimbursed by Trump), then the parties to the contract are Daniels and Michael Cohen as the agent for EC (the Daniels complaint makes essentially this argument, declaring that Trump didn't pay the money (and he didn't) and so received no consideration.  Without consideration, there is no contract.  This may, indeed, be where the contract dissolves.**).  And, in fact, EC is the entity seeking arbitration pursuant to the terms of the agreement.  But Cohen has a problem, which is pointed out in the Daniels' Complaint:  on February 13 of this year, Cohen issued a public statement affirming the existence of the agreement, pointing out (correctly) that Trump wasn't a party to the agreement, and that the money didn't come from Trump.  If Trump is not a signatory to the agreement, and is not made a party by payment to Daniels under the terms of the agreement, then the payment can't be used to enforce the agreement on Trump's behalf.

Except (and here's where we go deeper into the hall of mirrors), if Trump wasn't a party to the agreement, to whom did "PP" deliver the "property" identified in the agreement that "DD" was effectively buying in order to cover up any evidence of the relationship?  The agreement said "PP" (Daniels) would deliver the "property" (a defined term in the agreement, hence the quotation marks) to "DD" (Trump) as part of the agreement and grounds for receiving the money.  If she delivered but Trump didn't receive, did the "property" go where socks go in the dryer?

Inquiring minds want to know.

To make it even messier: the remedies allowed in the agreement in case of breach "shall render PP liable to DD for any and all damages incurred as a result thereof."  Further, if an arbitrator determines there has been a breach of the agreement by PP, payment under the terms of the agreement is to be made to DD, and further to pay to DD the amount of $1 million in "liquidated damages."  But the only entity seeking arbitration of this agreement is EC, which, by the terms of the agreement, is not entitled to any damages at all.  The arbitration TRO (the "secret injunction," actually just an ex parte action allowed by the courts because it requires both parties come to court within a short time, or the restraining order expires on its own terms) is really basically toothless, since the court is not going to enjoin "PP" from seeking a declaratory judgment on the validity of the agreement.

There are grounds to indicate there was a contract, but that the contract was between "PP" and "EC."  At most, EC could demand the $130, 000.00 on a breach of contract action (the arbitration it is pursuing could recover that).   Unless Trump becomes a party to that arbitration action (he isn't, so far), the $1 million in damages clause doesn't come into play because EC is neither referenced in that clause, nor in any way damaged by PP beyond the reach of the payment made by EC under the contract.  The agreement, after all, is meant to protect the reputation of "DD" from allegations made by "PP."  Which puts Trump in a very particular pickle:

Trump wants this to go away.  There's a reason he didn't sign it, and a reason only EC is seeking arbitration of the agreement now.  Trump could seek to enforce the agreement on the grounds there was consideration and acceptance by Daniels, especially if she turned over the "property" to him, even if it went through Cohen as Trump's agent.  However, the consideration came from EC, not Trump, so enforcing the agreement on that ground is tenuous at best. (I should explain that consideration is usually held against the person receiving it, not the person giving it, when the question is:  was a contract created?)  Besides, Daniels gave Trump consideration (the "property"), which would make the agreement binding as to Trump, but Daniels wants out of the agreement, so that would not be binding against her.  And if he wants to enforce the agreement Trump has to admit he had an affair with Daniels, or at least face questions about why he entered into this agreement, and he doesn't want to do that.  And to do that, he has to admit the money from EC came from him, which he also doesn't want to do, else why go through the ruse of setting up a third party merely for payment?  Trump went to a lot of trouble not to be a party to this contract, but unless he is, the contract is essentially unenforceable, since EC's reputation was not threatened by what PP has to say, and recovering the money from Daniels might well lead to a suit to recover the "property" (photos, text messages, maybe even videos?) from Trump.  The clear intent of the agreement is that Trump will suffer damages if Daniels doesn't hold up her end and keep quiet, and Trump secures her silence with the damage clauses of the agreement.  But those damages are recoverable by Trump and not any other party to the Agreement.   If Trump doesn't enforce the agreement, Daniels would be free to distribute whatever copies of the photos, text messages, etc., she may have, because there would be no agreement blocking her from doing so, it having been dissolved in arbitration because EC got its money back.   If EC gets its money back in arbitration, Daniels can credibly argue she is entitled to control, if not possession, of the "property" transferred to Trump, and if she has her own copies, Trump can't stop her from releasing them.

And wouldn't that get messy?

*My analysis intentionally skips over the Statute of Frauds issues, which the Slate article mentions.  I think that analysis valid on its face, and generally assume the validity of the contract anyway, contrary to the arguments for the declaratory judgment action filed by Ms. Daniels.

**At least with regards to Trump.  EC can credibly argue it is a party to the agreement, and it paid money (i.e., "consideration") to Daniels, which she accepted, creating a contract that can be enforced in arbitration.  But, as I argue, EC's damages are limited to only what it paid under the contract.  I don't think EC is entitled to any other remedy specified in the contract, as those remedies are specific to Trump, and if he's not a party because he gave no consideration, he can't enforce those terms in his favor.