When Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction: You Can’t Make Up This Stufff

It’s time to Break It Down!

With visions of Josh (Haulin’-Azz) Hawley sprinting through the Capitol, I imagined General Paxton feinting and stutter stepping away from the steely-eyed process server, just trying to do his job. Oh yeah, that’s Attorney General (AG), not a military General. I’m not sure whether that makes the image better or worse. On the one hand, it was not an actual American serviceman, designated as a leader of men (and women) resorting to this pusillanimous tactic. On the other hand, the guy is the highest-ranking legal officer in the great state of Texas; the land where they say everything is big. I’m not sure what that makes Paxton. The Big Chicken?

Oh wait; I have led with the middle of the story. ICYMI, Mr. Paxton is at or near the center of a controversy in Texas about abortion access. He was subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit filed last month by several abortion rights groups, seeking to block Texas officials from bringing cases under Texas’ abortion bans for conduct that happened out of state before Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The affidavit says two subpoenas were issued for Paxton, one under his professional title as attorney general, and another addressed to him individually.

Day before yesterday, Ernesto Martin Herrera served the subpoenas to Paxton at his home, according to the affidavit. Mr. Herrera knocked on the front door and a woman opened it. He indicated he was there to give Mr. Paxton important legal documents. She said Paxton was on the phone and was in a hurry to leave. Herrera left his card and returned to his car.

About an hour later, a car drove into the home’s garage and Paxton exited the vehicle.

“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name. As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside his house through the same door in the garage.”

Later, according to the affidavit, his wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, started the truck. Several minutes later Ken Paxton ran out the door and into the car, trying to avoid Herrera. Mr. Herrera says he again yelled Paxton’s name, saying he had legal documents, but Paxton continued toward the truck.

When Herrera determined Paxton was not going to take the subpoenas from his hand, the affidavit says he yelled to Paxton that he was serving him with legal documents and left them on the ground.

Paxton left in the truck and left the documents on the ground; Herrera said in the affidavit.

AG Paxton responded to the allegation via tweets, saying he is being attacked for trying to “Avoid a stranger lingering outside my home.”

“This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves.”

“All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety – many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”

“It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family.”

Was audacity really the right choice of words there? I digress!

Yesterday, Judge Robert Pitman ruled that Paxton does not have to appear at a hearing related to the abortion access lawsuit after an affidavit alleged that he ran away twice from a person who was serving him with a subpoena related to the lawsuit. Pitman also granted Paxton’s emergency motion to seal the documents.

The Judge said, “Plaintiff’s actions have caused a serious risk” for Paxton because the process server was “unidentified” and “loitered” at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted both the Attorney General and his wife, a Senator in the Texas legislature. He feared for his safety and refused to engage with the strange man who was lurking outside of his home and repeatedly shouting at him.”  

So, what’s the moral of this story? It is indeed good to have friends in high places…even when high places are your stomping grounds! Looking at this incident in retrospect, Herrera is lucky Paxton didn’t default to Stand your ground. “When Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction: You Can’t Make Up This Stuff!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Order In The Court: Special Master Style

It’s time to Break It Down!

There’s an argument to be made that second and third hand news is not news at all, just rumor and conjecture. The thing is that’s how news is typically conveyed. After all, when was the last you were at the front line of a war zone, or in a room with the Royals, or at the table when OPEC decided how much to charge for a barrel of oil? That’s right, when you get down to it, what passes for news is handed down by someone, verbally, or in writing, who got it from someone else, almost all the time.

In these ideologically divided and fraught times, often, the version of the news you choose to embrace depends upon the source, and which way you lean politically. How else does one explain after watching a guy flout convention and norms for the last seven years, nearly as many Americans who don’t trust him, are ready to pledge their support and vote for him to be President of the country? Again!

With that preamble, I want to take a few minutes to explore, for your edification, one of the latest episodes of “What Will He Do Next?

Perhaps you know D. Trump sought and was granted a special master to review the documents the FBI seized when they searched Mar-a-Lago. Judge Aileen Cannon, a Florida US District Judge, appointed by D. Trump, not only agreed to accede to the Trump request, but with DOJ sign-off, assigned a judge approved by Trump, to serve in the capacity of Special Master. 

court hearing in Brooklyn yesterday provided an initial glimpse of how Judge Raymond Dearie, the senior judge selected to fulfil the role, will approach the challenge of reviewing materials seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home. 

Judge Dearie is a seasoned and widely respected jurist. He showed skepticism of Trump’s arguments about how the review should proceed, while stressing a desire to move quickly. His appointment order – issued by Judge Cannon – said he must finish his review by the end of November.

Judge Cannon ordered the third-party review, in response to a Trump lawsuit claiming that the review was necessary to filter out materials covered by attorney client privilege, as well personal items that do not belong in the hands of the investigators. It should be noted that lawsuit may have the ultimate effect of running out the clock, as Republicans expect to wrest control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections. If that happens as anticipated, a GOP led House will not only quash the current January 6 Hearings, but will likely initiate numerous hearings on Democrats, and possibly launch impeachment hearings against President Biden because, well because Democrats impeached Trump, and if they control the House…they can. But I digress.  

As Judge Dearie starts sifting through the approximately 11,000 documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, the DOJ has asked an appeals court to revive its criminal investigation into the materials marked as classified, as Judge Cannon blocked investigators from using the seized materials during the special master review. 

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s hearing in front of Judge Dearie:

Judge Dearie puts Trump on notice that he will need to put up or shut up on declassification

Judge Dearie indicated that he would not have much patience for Trump trying to muddy the waters around the classification status of documents marked as classified, especially if he opts not to produce evidence supporting the claims the records should not be treated as classified. 

“If the government gives me prima facia evidence that these are classified documents, and you, for whatever reason, decide not to advance any claim of declassification, I’m left with a prima facia case of classified documents, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie told Trump’s lawyers at the hearing.

Jim Trusty, a Trump attorney, said they were not able to fully disclose their defense until they could see the documents.

Judge Dearie, who acknowledged there was political strategy at play, also added there was the practical issue of what recommendations he would need to make to Judge Cannon. He added, “My view of it is you can’t have your cake and eat it.” 

Judge Dearie emphasizes need for speed, putting any Trump delay tactics in jeopardy 

Judge Dearie referenced his November 30 deadline, already after the aforementioned midterms, as he made clear that the review was going to need to move quickly.

“I’m not going to hurry, but we have a lot to do and a relatively short period of time,” he said. 

He made that comment after the Trump team had sought, in their letter Monday, to push back some of the interim deadlines proposed in a draft plan circulated among the parties. Specifically, Trump’s attorneys objected to a proposed October 7 deadline for them to inspect and categorize the materials Judge Dearie has been tapped to review.

During the hearing, Trusty denied they were seeking to revise the schedule as a delay tactic. (Wink, wink.)

“It’s not to be in favor of delay, we want resolution on these things, too.”

Not surprisingly, Dearie did not seem to buy their arguments on the timeline.

There was tension over whether Trump or the judge should even see the sensitive materials 

Judge Dearie stressed that he took seriously the need to protect government secrets, noting the “very strong obligation” that the government must ensure that highly sensitive information does not get out. 

He remarked that if he can make his recommendation to Cannon about certain classified documents without exposing himself or Trump’s lawyers to the material, he would do so.

“It’s a matter of need to know.” Judge Dearie said, referring to the standard in court cases that is used to determine when even those with a security clearance can view classified materials. 

Justice Department attorney, Julie Edelstein, noted that some of the department’s own investigators don’t yet have the special clearances they need to view the particularly sensitive documents.

Trump’s team pushed back on the idea that they could be barred from looking at some of the sensitive materials. Trusty said that it is “kind of astounding to hear the government say that the (former) President’s lawyers don’t have a need to know.”

Judge Dearie brings a serious and focused approach to the job

From the moment he stepped into the courtroom, there were signals that Judge Dearie was viewing the job seriously and had thought through the task at hand. 

He took the bench wearing a dark navy pinstripe suit; in the role, he is not serving as a judge, but as an adviser to the district court in Florida. 

At the outset, Judge Dearie cut directly to the chase, not belaboring any points. 

“I am going to do the best I can with the time available to us.”

He also indicated he saw his role as limited, as he stressed that he would follow closely the instructions from the judge in Florida who appointed him. He told the parties he was tasked with making a “discrete” number of legal judgments.

DOJ hints it may go to SCOTUS if it needs to


While the planning around the special master review is playing out, the Justice Department has also asked the 11th Circuit to intervene in the dispute, and on Tuesday, the government’s attorneys signaled they’d turn to the Supreme Court if need be. Of course, it’s entirely possible Trump’s interests may hold sway there.

The Justice Department is asking for the appeals court to lift the hold Judge Cannon placed blocking the use of the materials marked as classified in the Justice Department’s criminal probe. The DOJ is also asking that those documents be excluded from the special master review. 

If the 11th Circuit rules against the DOJ, Edelstein suggested, it would “most likely consider other appellate options at that point,” raising the possibility the Justice Department could ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Much still unsettled about the next steps


The hearing ended with much still undetermined regarding the timing of the review’s next steps. 

Judge Dearie gave Trump’s lawyers until Friday to say which vendor, among the options put forward by the Justice Department, should be used for scanning and hosting copies of the records for the parties to access through the review. The rest of the timeline has yet to be set. 

After the documents are scanned and made available to the parties, the next step would be for the documents to be logged according to the four categories set out by Judge Cannon, with any disagreements between the parties about how records should be logged then brought to Judge Dearie for his take. From there, Judge Dearie will make recommendations to Judge Cannon for how those disagreements should be resolved. 

The four categories Judge Cannon has laid out are personal documents that are claimed as privileged, personal documents that are not privileged, presidential records that are claimed as privileged, and presidential records that are claimed as not privileged.

If one thing is clear from the early going, it is that in picking Judge Dearie, Team Trump may not have secured the lackey they’d hoped would ease their task. It’s still early, but so far, it appears Judge Dearie is playing it straight. “Order In The Court: Special Master Style!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:


Nine-Eleven: Forever Etched Upon The American Psyche

It’s time to Break It Down!

This post appeared originally in this space on September 7, 2011, commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Nine-Eleven.. It was re-purposed and presented September 11, 2013, September 13, 2017, September 12, 2018, September 11, 2019, September 8, 2021 (20th Anniversary), and again today, September 14, 2022.

As I re-post this vintage edition of “Break It Down,” today is three days after the Twenty-first Anniversary of Nine-Eleven. I am ever mindful that it’s both, a day America will never forget, and a day that forever changed America’s worldview. In the span of 81 minutes in one late summer’s morning, in the second year of the new millennium, 19 Saudis grabbed America by its collective gonads, and squeezed. Unimaginably hard. We blinked. We gathered ourselves, but regrouping was a process. We fundamentally changed the way we meet and greet the world. We are more guarded, and security has a whole new meaning. We even invented an entirely new federal governmental agency (Homeland Security) to guard our public security, and monitor anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management.

(From the Archives, September 7, 2011)

Do you remember where you were, Tuesday, September 11, 2001? This week we observed the 21th Anniversary of the day that has come to be known simply as, Nine-Eleven (9/11). That day 21 years ago, America lost, in one fell swoop, any notion of its blissful innocence, its long-standing appearance of invulnerability, and its deeply ingrained sense of security. By some accounts, what it retained is its self-righteous (some would say) belief in American Exceptionalism and entitlement; but that is a conversation for another post.

Suddenly we were at war, and the fight had uncharacteristically come to us, straightway.  This battle was personal, and it was on our home turf; no longer some shadowy ideological military exercise, or guerrilla warfare episode, played out on foreign soil, half a world away.

U.S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 71 was introduced with 22 co-sponsors (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats) and approved by a vote of 407-0 on October 25, 2001 (with 25 members not voting).  The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on November 30, 2001.  The Resolution requested that the President designate September 11th each year as Patriot Day.  President George W. Bush signed the Resolution into law December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89).

On this day, the President directs that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad.  This year President Biden, as President Trump and President Obama did before him, deemed the day one of National Remembrance and Service.

Even after 21 years; more than two decades worth of context building, and development of perspective, the numbers behind Nine-Eleven are chilling.  Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, and thousands of others were injured, and many more sustained post-event traumas.  Examples of the carnage include:

2,977 Victims killed (not including the 19 hijackers)

2,606 Killed at the World Trade Center Towers

87 Killed on American Flight/NYC World Trade Center North Tower

60 Killed on United Flight 175/NYC World Trade Center South Tower

125 Killed at the Pentagon

59 Killed on Flight 77/Arlington – The Pentagon

40 Killed on United Flight 93/Shanksville, PA

246 Passengers Killed (on four planes)

658 Employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. (Investment Bank) killed; most of any employer

411 Emergency workers killed at the World Trade Centers

341 FDNY firefighters killed

37 Port Authority Police Department officers killed

23 NYPD officers killed

8 EMT’s killed

Paramedics killed

19 Hijackers Killed (on four planes)

2,996 Killed on Nine-Eleven

1,631 Bodies positively identified from World Trade Center Towers

1,122 Bodies (41%) remain unidentified

Bone fragments were still being found in 2005 by workers preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building 

72 Additional remains found in 2010 by a team of anthropologists and archeologists 

Medical Examiner will continue to try to identify remains in the hope new technology will lead to the identification of other victims.  The death and destruction of Nine-Eleven led to the so-called Global War on Terror.  Mostly the front lines have been in Afghanistan and Iraq.  However, a central intent of the action has been to prevent a recurrence of Nine-Eleven-like events on U.S. soil.

The initial thrust began October 7, 2001 when the U.S., British, and Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan, and in March 2002, when the U.S. and Coalition forces launched Operation Anaconda and the Taliban suffered significant losses, and left the region.  In the interim, involvement in the region has ebbed and flowed, but the war, which the Obama Administration referred to as Overseas Contingency Operation, continues. The War in Afghanistan is officially the longest war in American History.  We have for some time been in the “every day is a new record” era.

U.S. Intelligence sources pointed to Al-Qaeda as the probable instigator behind Nine-Eleven.  It’s leader, Osama bin Laden initially denied involvement.  Over time, bin Laden became more emboldened, first conceding involvement, and ultimately admitting that he was instrumental in masterminding the horrific attacks. During his Presidential CampaignMr. Obama declared he would not relent in the hunt for Osama.  The elusive terrorist was thought to be hiding in Pakistan.  Mr. Obama stated bluntly that if reliable intelligence pinpointed bin Laden, he would deploy U.S. forces to find and kill him, which he did on May 2, 2011.

The good news is, over the course of the past twenty-one years, there have been no repeat Nine-Eleven scale events on U.S. soil.  That result is partly due to fastidiously focusing on prevention efforts, partly a result of fortuitous failures of would-be terrorists, and partly a function of the fateful intervention of alert by-standers. Last year, President Trump negotiated an agreement to end America’s longest (20 years) war by May of 2021. President Biden, who succeeded Mr. Trump, committed to honor the agreement. Ultimately, he pulled American troops out of Afghanistan by August 31st. a pledge he ultimately honored, despite numerous suggestions, for a variety of reasons, that he abandon it.

As we place the commemoration of Patriot Day 2021 in the rearview mirror, and twenty-one years of Nine-Eleven related memories with it, Americans are still advised to be on high alert for potential incursions by terrorists, most likely of the lone wolf variety, where one person acts in solo fashion. So here we are, “Nine-Eleven: Forever Etched Upon The American Psyche!” I trust you had a productive Day of Remembrance and Service.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:

Labor Day: It’s All About The Workers Redux ’22

It’s Time to Break It Down!

This post appeared originally in this space on August 31, 2011. It was re-purposed and presented again September 3, 2014, September 7, 2016, September 6, 2017, September 5, 2018, September 4, 2019, September 9, 2020, and once again today, September 7, 2022).

As you know, Monday was Labor Day. As with most holidays, I knock it down a few notches so readers can enjoy their time off, and ease into a vintage post, if they so choose. At its core, according to the U.S. Department of LaborLabor Day in the United States was designed to commemorate the creation of the labor movement; dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  The holiday focuses on contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

First observed in September 1882, the event has always been observed on the first Monday of the month of September.  Initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York, the celebration became a federal holiday in 1894.

In addition to its formal structure and purpose, Labor Day has several symbolic associations.  It is considered: 

The unofficial End of Summer

The last 3-Day warm weather weekend for vacationers

By High Society standards, the last day for which it is appropriate for women to wear white

The beginning of the College Football Season 

The start of the NFL Season 

The conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season

Backto-School shopping

Labor Day also validates and recognizes an often-controversial mechanism that frequently divides American opinion: labor unions.  

Scorned by many who fancy themselves as Free Enterprise Capitalists, unions and their members have not only been actively involved historically, in debates that framed public policy for American workers, they have won or forced hard-earned concessions that in the shimmering glow of reflective perspective, must be considered to have fundamentally altered the playing field (known as the workplace), including:


Health Care Benefits

Paid Vacations

Equal Pay to women

The Development of Child Labor Laws

The 5-Day Work Week

The 40-Hour Work Week

The8-Hour Workday

Worker’s Compensation benefits

Female Flight Attendants permitted to marry

These and many other important cherished and beneficial employee rights are attributable to the efforts of the American Labor Movement.  However, this post is not an ode to Labor Unions. For all their well-deserved accolades, unions also have downside effects.  They can create or contribute to:

The potential for strikes

Additional costs to all employees (membership dues; whether a member or not)

Loss of individuality (ability to represent oneself in a grievance)

Subject to fines & discipline by the Union

Disincentives to productivity and competition

Lack of promotions

Burdensome salary demands (relative to the market)

Loss of profits (and/or pay) due to strike

Inefficient & ineffective contracts

Increased unemployment due to failure to reach agreement w/management

The first Labor Day celebration was led by a Labor Union.  The history of the Day has been linked, inextricably, with Labor organizations, ever since.  But it is the American Worker the Day was intended to commemorate.

Meanwhile, contemplate, “Labor Day: It’s All About The Workers Redux ’22!” While we’ve got plenty of issues to temper our enthusiasm, we should still celebrate America’s Labor Movement, and the phenomenal workers it represents. 

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right-hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below: