All posts by M.J.

#296: Found Free Lost

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #296, on the subject of Found Free Lost.

I first encountered Found Free when they played at Gordon College, probably in 1975 or ‘6.  I was in the cafeteria (I have previously mentioned that Gordon did not have an auditorium, and the chapel was not large enough to hold the entire student body, so large gatherings were always in the cafeteria or the gym) in advance of the show, while they were setting up, and I approached their guitarist, Wayne Farley.  I approached him because he was playing what I still on some level consider the “Holy Grail” of instruments, an electric guitar that sounds like an acoustic when amplified.  I asked him what it was, and he gave me an unfamiliar brand name; I believe he said it was from Australia.  I failed to remember that information, partly because on my paltry budget everything was too expensive to consider.

My good friend Jeff Zurheide walked out of that concert, and I understand why, although it might be said that he lacked patience.  The band had a well-organized and well-performed show designed for college campuses generally which began with covers of secular oldies coupled with nostalgic reminiscences to draw in the audience, and then eventually shifted to delivering the gospel message with a few Christian covers and originals.  Jeff was not interested in hearing a secular music concert, and did not anticipate the shift; I stayed to see what they were going to do, although I don’t know why I expected something different.  They were talented.

A couple years later I was out of school and out of work, and I heard they were auditioning for a guitarist.  I arranged an audition.  I had lunch with David Michael Ed, keyboard player and vocalist, and then played for him and vocalist Keith Lancaster, but my fate was sealed at lunch when they learned that I was married–it had been their plan to find someone who could share an apartment in the city with Keith, and so keep expenses down.  They said that my playing and singing were certainly good enough (although I am not at all satisfied myself that I could have replaced Wayne Farley, whose departure from the band had occasioned this opening), but they couldn’t afford my wife.

I often wonder what might have been, but I doubt I could have saved them, as sad as that is.

They did give me a copy of their recently released Greentree Records album Closer Than Ever, saying that I apparently did not know what they sounded like at that point (which was correct, as they had changed significantly in the couple years since I’d heard them).  It was a well produced album with good but not great songs, and the vocal work was very impressive.  I remember many cuts from that disc, but not many of them have been preserved on the web.  Ed’s song I Won’t Turn Back was a gentle opener, but Stone Heart exemplifies the processed sound typical of the LP.  Lancaster’s Do You Want Him? is a gentle call, and Starlight Praise has been described by someone as “brassy gospel swing”.  Touched by Love closes the first side with a bouncy touch, and the B side opens with the title track, smooth and a bit schmaltzy.  Farley contributed the track Still Up Walkin’, a song that prefigures his complicated compositions which appear later elsewhere.  I always liked Lancaster’s Stained Glass Window, but I don’t remember the closing song If You Know by Ed.

I know a few facts that come next, but not the sequence in which they came.  David Ed and his wife Joy separated, and both left the band.  They never actually found a guitarist to replace Farley, but instead found a new bass guitarist and shifted their former bass guitarist to guitar.  I think Lancaster took over on keyboards, and they put together an impressive array of musicians that filled the stage.  I managed once again to catch them in concert, as they released another album–sort of.  They had apparently lost their contract with Greentree, and it was pretty obvious that Sparkal Records was a vanity label, that is, they had produced their own album and paid to have it pressed.  We had a copy at the radio station, and I had my own copy, and it was a superb album throughout, under the title Specially Purchased, Individually Wrapped.  However, it failed to find national marketing, and was the last gasp for the band.

Still, I remember some great songs from it, including Front Lines, I Need You Lord, Just Like a Child, Don’t We Need to Know, and of course the title song, Individually Wrapped, about being who God made each of us to be, instead of trying to copy what someone else is doing (in which they humorously copy several other artist styles in the midst of a group rap).  Not a one of those was found in online video, which is sad because I think it some of their best work.

On an only loosely related subject, I would later try out for a guitar and vocals spot in a band called Daybreak.  They lived together and worked out of a farmhouse somewhere in Pennsylvania, and became the go-to people for festival sound systems, but they never told me why they didn’t take me.  They were so insignificant that their discography isn’t published online that I could find (there’s another band of the same name around the same time), but the song I most liked from them was the a capella novelty title track from the one album I ever saw, You Can’t Stand Up Alone, and it appears that there must have been an earlier LP, from which the title track After the Rain is online.  I don’t know–I think I could have helped them, but I am impressed with their vocal work on other videos.  Probably I’ll never know what they didn’t like about me.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.
  28. #294:  Servant’s Waters.

#295: Does China Pay Tariffs?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #295, on the subject of Does China Pay Tariffs?

In trade disputes with China, President Trump has been raising tariffs.  Critics claim that such tariffs are not paid by China, but by the American Consumer, and they are right–sort of.

A tariff, of course, is a tax on imported goods.  According to sources, Trump has recently raised them from 10% to 25%.  A ten percent tariff means that if a computer comes into San Francisco harbor from China with a factory price of one thousand dollars, the shipper has to pay one hundred dollars to offload it onto the dock.  When the wholesaler comes to pick up the computer, the shipper will charge him the one thousand dollars for the computer, plus the one hundred dollars for the tax, plus whatever the price of shipping is said to be.  That means the wholesaler paid one thousand one hundred dollars plus shipping, and the retailer will have to pay that much plus the wholesaler markup, and the customer has to pay all of that plus the retailer’s markup.  So a computer that might cost a thousand dollars in China costs considerably more in the United States.

When we increase that tariff to twenty-five percent, the tax to offload the computer goes from one hundred dollars to two hundred fifty dollars.  This then gets passed through the same hands so that the retail shelf price of that same computer is now one hundred fifty dollars more than it was–and the person who wants to buy the computer pays that money.

So in that sense the critics are correct:  China does not pay the tariffs, Americans who buy Chinese-made computers pay the price.

That’s not how tariffs punish foreign nations.

Because American workers demand and receive (and in fairness need) higher wages than Chinese workers, and American businesses have to pay higher costs for environmental concerns and raw materials and even real estate, American products cost more to produce than Chinese products–and generally by enough that it is cheaper to buy products in China and ship them here than to make them here.  What tariffs do is raise the end user cost of foreign-made products so that they are more expensive to buy.  Yes, that means that a consumer can’t buy a computer as cheaply as before, because to get the same cheap Chinese-made computer he has to pay an extra one hundred fifty dollars–but that increase does not apply to computers made in America.  Therefore as the price of Chinese computers rises, American computer prices become more competitive, and more people decide that the American computer is a good choice, putting money in the pockets of American computer manufacturers and American workers.  The number of computers delivered from China declines, and China suffers from reduced sales of its manufactured goods.  This impacts the Chinese economy reducing manufacturing output, employment, and tax revenue.

Additionally, the tax money that is still collected on imported Chinese goods helps reduce the national debt at least a bit, which is good for our economy.  Further, a tariff against Chinese goods does not have any effect on computers made in Taiwan or Japan or Singapore or elsewhere in the world, so cheaper computers are still available–only the Chinese computer market is affected directly.  Demand on these other computers might increase retail prices some, but not nearly as much as the increased price from the tariff.

So it is true that tariffs increase consumer costs in America, but that doesn’t mean that China doesn’t pay.  They pay in their lost retail market, the fact that it now costs more for consumers to obtain their goods and so demand for them decreases.  And the benefits to America are found in increased sales of American-made goods (labor likes tariffs, in the main) and more tax money in the government coffers.

Does that mean that all tariffs are good?  Certainly not.  Import tariffs ultimately do increase consumer prices (just as export tariffs depress overseas sales).  Foreign countries usually retaliate with their own tariffs against American goods, which makes it harder to sell our products overseas.  There is a valid argument against tariffs.  But simply saying that China doesn’t pay them misunderstands exactly how they penalize China.

#294: Servant’s Waters

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #294, on the subject of Servant’s Waters.

I have this story fairly reliably from the mouth of one of the band’s founding members.  They were one of the Christian rock bands of the day, going from church to church and religious rally to religious rally in their tour bus.  One day on their way to somewhere the bus broke down.  They limped it into the first parking lot they found, which happened to be a bar.  Using the phone there (remember land lines?) they informed people that they were stuck and determined that they could get someone out to repair the bus the next day, but were just going to have to stay where the were for the night.

The proprietor suggested that as long as they were stuck there anyway, he would pay them something to play in the bar that night.  They weren’t going anywhere, and a bit of money toward fixing the bus would certainly be welcome, so they accepted his offer and set up their equipment on his stage.  They opened their set with the one secular cover they knew–I’m afraid I don’t now remember whether it was Johnny Be Good or Sloop John B, but it was the only non-original song they knew.  Having finished it, they kind of stared at each other for a moment, and decided there was nothing for it but to push forward with their all-original Christian rock repertoire.

They were well received.  They continued on their tour the next day, but they had discovered something, and they began shifting what they were doing to take them more and more into secular venues, places where people actually needed to hear the message.

I didn’t know all of that, but I knew that Servant was one of the legends of the time, taking Christian rock music into secular venues.

Their album Shallow Water reached the radio station shortly after I did, and I would not have guessed it was their first; it is, at any rate, the earliest to appear on official discographies.  It is well constructed and well performed throughout, sounding more like the work of seasoned artists who know what they’re doing than a debut.  The opening title song set the tone for a ministry that challenged Christians to give up comfortable lives in favor of radical ministry.  Other songs on the same theme included the somewhat gentler Rich Man, and the powerful and memorable Cup of Water.  It closes with the upbeat Fly Away.  Throughout the mix of multiple vocals with powerful rock instrumentation gave them a distinctive and powerful sound.

I have fewer memories of Rockin’ Revival, which came out two years later, but Ad Man attacked the dangers of modern commercialism (“The ad man is the prophet of the century, making all his profit off of you and me”), and it closes with the fun and encouraging I’m Gonna Live.

They did it again with World of Sand, with songs like New Revolution, but the favorite song on this was the gimmicky tribute to Christian rock music, Jungle Music, whose insider references in the closing dialogue montage included people like Larry Norman, Resurrection Band, Daniel Amos, DeGarmo & Key, Barnabas, Petra, Fireworks, Sweet Comfort Band, and themselves.

When they released Caught in the Act of Loving Him, I had the opportunity to see them live.  They not only put on a dynamic musical performance, they put on a complete show.  The lights were synched with the music, including flash pots and lasers.  The male lead vocalist trained as a gymnast and was in constant motion including standing flips on stage.  They were engaging on every level.  Meanwhile the songs continued to challenge, including the memorable Now Is the Time and perhaps my favorite, the album opener Burning Bridges (“…give me light”).  Critics suggest that with this album Servant was transitioning from headbanger rock to new wave, which is more than I know.  I only know that they continued to be one of the best acts in Christian music, and one of the most challenging music ministries out there.

I never heard anything from them after that, but their discography shows only two more albums, the last in 1985.  There was also an album in the midst of this entitled Remix, and when I asked them about it in an interview they said please don’t buy it, as it was released by a record company that they had just left who decided to try to profit from their popularity by doing (often poor) remixed versions of a number of their songs and putting them on a new album just as World of Sand was hitting the market.

Apart from that one album, I never heard anything from Servant I wouldn’t recommend whole-heartedly.  It’s easy to forget just how good they were.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.

#293: Versers Relate

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #293, on the subject of Versers Relate.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first four novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, and Spy Verses,  in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the fifth, Garden of Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the sixth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 61 through 72.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 61, Kondor 146

I couldn’t really see a chapter describing Slade’s slow walk through a fight in which he was only an observer with a few occasional contributions to be all that interesting.  The only interesting part would be confronting the fire beast, and that wasn’t going to be a big deal in the pattern I’d anticipated; we’ve seen Shella bury opponents before.  It would be more interesting, I thought, to have the reactions of the others in the team to the description of that, and I needed to go to Kondor’s arrival anyway, so I wrote it this way.


Chapter 62, Hastings 153

Lauren’s earliest memories surrounding the crib are mine, pretty much verbatim.  I also had the experience of my friend, who in my case was Ricky (I never could spell his last name) who lived two doors down across the street going to a different kindergarten session, only he was morning and I was afternoon.  The neighborhood kids are roughly modeled on my elementary school neighborhood, Maria replacing Anne Profumo, who was two years younger than me but did have two older brothers who babysat and an older sister with a birth defect.  The kids across the street from her were sisters, and I do not remember their names and never was sure whether one was older than the other; I moved away from that neighborhood after elementary school.  Ricky’s older brother called him Dinky; I asked why once, but he didn’t want to talk about it.  The rest is a pastiche of things I remember doing as a child.

The Ob-Gyn is my wife’s story; we traveled quite a distance so she could see her doctor there, and my kids were all born in that hospital because that’s where they had their practice.


Chapter 63, Beam 16

It would make no sense to give the original outline notes for this chapter, as they assume that much has already happened that has not happened yet.

I wrote myself into a corner here, and had to get Kyler to help me out.  The problem is that I had just recently realized that when you have complicated plans your characters are going to use, either you don’t tell them in advance but just let them unfold in action, or you tell them and then have something go wrong.  The particular details of this plan needed to be told in advance, complete with backups, but then I wasn’t sure what could wrong—or how to fix it.  Kyler gave me information I had not known about his character Dawn, and I put together the details of why they failed to get through the gate from there.

I decided on a ritual spiel in Spanish, of which I speak very little but Kyler a bit more, and used Google Translate to get exactly what I wanted.  I also recognized that listening at a door with a cup works well if your mind can work out the words, but you can’t really clearly hear all the consonants, so Beam wouldn’t get what they needed.  Neither, then, would Bob, who is listening not to words but to thoughts.  That means once the gate closes, they don’t know how to open it.


Chapter 64, Brown 170

I was mostly concerned with wrapping up the scenario and getting back to the palace.  I knew I was going to have them teleport back, but recognized that they had left the wagon and two men several miles away and had to retrieve them.  Derek was the logical choice for correcting that.


Chapter 65, Kondor 147

I pondered for at least a day or two just what the Caliph would give them to express gratitude.  Finally I recalled that the gift offered by my example middle eastern rulers in the Book of Daniel was promotion to an important position.  The Caliph wasn’t going to make anyone third ruler of the nation or anything so grand, but he would give some kind of title to Slade, and the logical one was Royal Advisor.  That left me with the question of whether he would just ignore the contributions of the others, which I decided I didn’t want, so I decided that since Royal Advisor would probably include some kind of badge of office, a gold chain with a medallion was a good choice, and the others could receive similar gold chains without the medallions.


Chapter 66, Hastings 154

I pulled a lot of this from my own memories of my own neighborhood and elementary school years, but made a lot of changes as well.

I had wanted to cover several sessions in this chapter and push toward the moment she versed out, but I realized when I substituted a Mexican dinner for the Hawaiian luau I remembered from my own elementary school days that Mexico probably would not exist in a world where they had never heard of New Jersey, and that diverted me into her talk of geography and how different her “imagined” world was from the real one.  Thus I wound up filling the session, and the chapter, with a lot of useless world detail and a still confused psychiatrist and a theory of the multiverse.  Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up the pace next time.


Chapter 67, Beam 17

I was really pleased with this.  I went into it with no clue how Beam was going to get the cloak and shoes, and came up with the answer while he was asking his team for suggestions.  I knew that Dawn could kill them both, but didn’t want that.  The original story had the hero distracting the two with the idea that they should race to decide who would get it, and then vanishing with the cloak and shoes while they were running, but not only did I not want to take that idea, I knew it wouldn’t work for four.  I needed a way for him to outsmart the pair, but they weren’t that bright, so I did it.

I’m several chapters behind the outline, but happy with how it’s going; if necessary, I see that I can move Beam chapters tighter within the story frame.


Chapter 68, Brown 171

I had originally labeled this a Slade chapter, but forgot, and thought of a good idea for Derek before I started writing it, so I changed direction.


Chapter 69, Slade 147

I decided that I could move more quickly through Derek becoming part of the entourage of the princess if I put it in Slade’s perspective, and decided that Slade has started worrying about things that aren’t necessarily problems.


Chapter 70, Hastings 155

I didn’t see a way to get around Lauren explaining the whole verser thing to Doctor Conway, but I hadn’t really covered it perhaps for a couple of books, so I decided it wasn’t going to bore readers badly.  It was important to have that as part of his perception of her delusions.

I was at this point printing the first draft of each chapter and delivering it to Kyler.  When he read this one, he immediately suggested that Lauren would read the mind of the psychiatrist, to know what he is thinking about her.  We discussed it, and I thought yes, this is something she will do, but at the end of this chapter she is lost in her thoughts of family and won’t do it until some time in the next session, or whenever I get to the place where she arrives in Philadelphia and reads Gavin’s mind.  That would cause her to decide to read the doctor’s mind.


Chapter 71, Beam 18

I saw the transit with the boat as something of a comic moment, as Bron grabs one of the thwarts inside the boat and tells the boots to take him to the other side, only to have the boat lift partly from the water, holding him down and tilting such that he can’t see where he’s going.  I’m afraid much of it is lost in the telling, but the appearance of the boat might convey it at least to some readers.

In the original fairy tale, of course, the hero gets the girls away from the princes, gets them under his cloak so that they can see that their suitors are demons, and returns them safely home after escaping.  The world as published in Multiverser:  The Second Book of Worlds has that as a plausible outcome.  However, one of our objectives here was to create a relationship between Beam and the efriit, having decided that these were actually efriit and not demons, and it seemed reasonable to bring the story to a quick resolution by having them arrive too late to stop the weddings.


Chapter 72, Slade 148

I was going to make this a Kondor chapter, but I kept coming back to a conversation between Slade and the Caliph about Derek and the Princess, so it had to be a Slade chapter.


This has been the sixth behind the writings look at Garden of Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue publishing the novel and these behind the writings posts for it.

#292: Rising Resurrection Band

When I first arrived at the radio station early in ’79, I had heard of Resurrection Band.  They were known to be the cutting edge of Christian rock music at that time.  However, I had never heard them.  My first exposure came when our program director handed me the recently arrived copy of Rainbow’s End and told me we were never going to play it, so I might as well take it home and enjoy it.

I’m sure I listened to it once.

I don’t think I would say it was too much for me.  Rather, the distortion levels were so high that I couldn’t make much of it.  Wendy and Glenn Kaiser shared the vocals, and they both had very gravelly voices.  I often thought Wendy sounded a lot like Janis Joplin, although I’ve read others say she was reminiscent of Grace Slick.  I never cared for Joplin’s voice, and Wendy’s grated on me similarly.  Its best feature was that it blended well with Glenn, who although rock-rough was easier to hear.  When I try to think of the band’s typical sound, I always recall Wendy’s song Area 312, a somewhat cryptic reference to living in Chicago (312 was the Chicago telephone area code–remember those?).

I met Glenn sometime in ’82 at a local concert, where he gave me a copy of the DMZ album about a week before the record company released it.  I immediately fell in love with No Alibi; it is still my one go-to Rez Band song, and I have a good story for it.  You’ll remember that our station management had trouble with the concepts of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music.  The first time I played this song on the air I did so with some trepidation, concerned that we were pushing the envelope beyond what the management would accept.  In the middle of the song the general manager walked into the studio and said, “What is this?”  A bit nervously I replied that it was No Alibi from Resurrection Band‘s newly-released album DMZ.  She said, “Those are great words,” and turned and walked out of the studio.

I believe I said, “Yes!” in a most emphatic way.  It is a fabulous song.

I next encountered Glenn at Creation (’82, I think), where Resurrection Band was leading Sunday morning worship with songs like I Need Your Love.  I was backstage with Jeff Duffield, who with his wife Sue toured the church circuit with a Gaitheresque Inspirational/MOR sound.  He commented to me that he simply did not understand how music like this could be used for worship, yet it was obvious that the people in the crowd had hands raised and eyes closed and were singing along with their focus on Christ.  A few minutes later Glenn came our direction, and I mentioned this to him.  He recounted being at a festival on the west coast where one of the artists was a Christian punk rock band.  As he listened from back stage, he was thinking, “Lord, how can You use this?  How does this glorify You?”  Yet as he looked out at the crowds, he saw that the band was reaching the audience–and he felt so convicted, because he was passing the same kind of judgment on the new musical styles that had been passed on him.

I have had contact with Glenn over the internet sporadically since then.  Wendy turned her attention to raising their family, and Glenn shifted to Christian Blues with The Glenn Kaiser Band.  They’re leaders in the Jesus People USA organization in Chicago.

One does not stay the leader forever, though.  Not long after DMZ came to us, we received a single–a six minute single on, if memory serves, a ten-inch disc–from a new band called Barnabas, under the title Waiting for the Aliens, from their forthcoming album Approaching Light Speed.  I believe we played it once, just so our listeners would know it was out there–although it was very good and very well done.  Rez Band had blazed the trail for such bands to follow, and more would follow in the years ahead.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.

#291: Versers in Action

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #291, on the subject of Versers in Action.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first four novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, and Spy Verses,  in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the fifth, Garden of Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the fifth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 49 through 60.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 49, Brown 168

This idea kept coming back to me, and I kept thinking that there were problems with it–but I kept working on the problems, and thought I could make it work.  Part of it was because when the mission was over I sort of expected that they would all teleport back to the palace, and I didn’t want the readers wondering why they hadn’t used the ability prior to that.


Chapter 50, Hastings 150

As soon as I finished the Brown chapter, I realized that I probably should write about his flight, and that meant another Brown chapter.  I started to mark this as a Beam chapter, but then decided that there was some tension in Lauren’s story that I should pursue, and the Beam chapters weren’t coming so quickly as I hoped (I was waiting for Beam 6 introducing his second world), so I decided to do Hastings and then Beam and then return with Derek.

I had been thinking through this chapter before I’d written the previous rape attempt, and in fact did the previous attempt as part of setting up for this one–I needed a reason for her to be in four-point restraints, and for her attacker to be particularly nasty at this point.  Still, several parts of her response were devised with reference to her character paper while I was writing it, including the failed attempt to interrupt his thought, the realization that she could enhance her vision, and the failure to raise the shield resulting in the attacker’s collision with the other shield.

I had also originally envisioned people entering the room and finding Brack trapped against the wall by the shield, unable to escape.  I decided pretty much at the last minute that Lauren would have decided not to give them proof of her power here, but would remove the shield before anyone else had any evidence it was there beyond Brack’s fall to the ground.

I debated the photography part, and decided to push it into her next chapter and cover it quickly in retrospect.


Chapter 51, Slade 144

Before I wrote this chapter, Kyler delivered Beam 6 through 8, which were inserted in the text as chapters 23, 27, and 31.

I had started to envision this as an internal dialogue, but I realized it worked better as a conversation with Shella.


Chapter 52, Beam 13

The original outline for this chapter read “At this point we should have Beam trying to figure out what’s happening to the princesses.  He will argue that Dawn should be permitted to stay in the room with them, and that will delay their disappearance for a few days (they won’t open the portal if they think she’s watching).  At some point, though, we’ve got to have them open the portal and pass through, and have Beam and company follow–maybe Bron has a scrying spell that enables them to observe from the other side of the door, so they see what happens and also see the gate operation spell.”  I found myself a chapter behind, as I struggled to find a motivation for Beam to undertake the challenge.  It also occurred to me that a magician might be able to hear thoughts, although it is harder in magic than in psionics, and that would conceivably make it possible for Bob to communicate with Bron–but I also decided it couldn’t be something Bron already knew or did, because that would have changed things significantly for him already, so he was going to have to figure out how to learn the spell.


Chapter 53, Kondor 145

I had decided to describe the teleport from Kondor’s perspective, and as I considered it I suddenly thought of a possible new direction for his magic problem:  he would have been told that magic was from the devil, so if he is forced to accept the existence of magic he will have to confront the question of its source.  I started that here; I’m not sure whether he can resolve it.

I kept trying to end this chapter, and it kept avoiding a comfortable closing.  I didn’t want to get into the watches, but knew it would be raised, so I tried to escape the discussion gracefully before they got to it.


Chapter 54, Hastings 151

I wrote the paragraph with Lauren’s sarcastic response (detailing possible explanations of what happened) as soon as I had finished the chapter with the rape; I also thought through a lot of the photography stuff.


Chapter 55, Brown 169

This chapter grew from the question of how they should proceed from here, and why Derek didn’t see the camp when he overflew the wadi.  I put the first question in Slade’s mouth and addressed it to Joe, and went from there.

It was only after the chapter had been written that I realized it conveniently set me up for a Slade scouting mission.


Chapter 56, Beam 14

I had nearly caught up with the outline, and got a bit of an advantage when I realized that Bob could hear the thoughts of the princesses, and so would know about the secret door as soon as Beam got them to think about it.  It was still going to be tricky getting to the place where they went through the door, but I figured I could manage that.


Chapter 57, Slade 145

I really was not sure what I was doing at this point, other than that I needed to have the credible appearance that they were searching for the bandits, leading ultimately to a confrontation.  I had stumbled into Slade and Shella first, and remembered that they used that spell for stealth but that Slade was also trained as a thief.  I kept it short and left open exactly how all that would be accomplished.


Chapter 58, Hastings 152

I needed a way to move forward, and ultimately this world was supposed to be about the perfectly sane verser dealing with a world’s mental health system that believes her crazy.  The notion that Brack would be mistreated for believing something that actually was true would be a concern for her, so getting her to claim the ability to do that was not so improbable.  On the other hand, I talked with Kyler about whether or not she would actually demonstrate the ability (and whether to have it succeed or fail or botch at this point), and agreed that this was going to open the direction into the main point of the world.


Chapter 59, Beam 15

By this point I was well behind the original outline, which read “This is probably a quiet chapter, returning to the forge.”  However, it was moving nicely.

I had been trying to figure out how to handle the three nights in which Dawn was babysitting the princesses, but decided that the simplest way was to have Beam report to the King on the third morning what had happened.  In retrospect, I realized that this was the only solution that made sense, because Beam, my viewpoint character, wasn’t going to be present in the room, and Dawn, who was in the room, always gave terse to-the-point factual reports.


Chapter 60, Slade 146

This chapter took a fair amount of crafting.  I needed it to be credible that Joe would arrive with the others while there was still fighting, but that Slade would have done sufficient damage and survived.  I pondered for a couple days whether he should be captured accidentally or intentionally.  I also had a plan for the fire beast, but things kept taking turns that moved me in other directions, so I put that off for another chapter.


This has been the fifth behind the writings look at Garden of Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue publishing the novel and these behind the writings posts for it.

#290: James the Other Ward

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #290, on the subject of James the Other Ward.

I have several times asked myself why I listed James Ward for an article of his own, instead of grouping him with the batch of male vocalists in one article still to come.  Part of the answer, I think, is that my cousin the Reverend Peter Grosso would probably kill me if I overlooked or minimized this artist who is, I understand, a friend of his, but part of it is that his Mourning to Dancing album is among my favorites, so he has at least earned that much from me.  I also heard him live once, but that’s part of the story.

One of three known covers of Ward’s Mourning to Dancing LP

It is of course not uncommon for persons with the same surnames to be unrelated, and although James Ward has the same name as Matthew Ward of Second Chapter of Acts, same as the maiden names of Matthew’s two sisters Annie Herring and Nellie Greisen from that same band, it does not appear that they are related; at least, no one ever suggested this, and in the entertainment world you usually do hear about such connections.  The Ward family of Acts appears to have been west-coast based, while James was on the east coast.  I know this because Peter, my cousin, apparently knew him through a New York state area summer camp called Peniel.  Sometime, possibly when I was still in high school (graduated in ’73), certainly before I got to Gordon (started in ’75), he was waving an album in front of me and raving about it–as “raving” as my soft-spoken older Presbyterian cousin ever raved.  Somehow, I don’t think he played any of it for me, and I can’t tell you anything about the sound, but my recollection of the cover was that it was that of a low-budget self-produced release, and in perhaps my own youthful hubris I was not impressed.

When I was at Gordon College, Peter was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary right up the road (the official connections between the two schools were finally and formally dissolved during my first year there), and when Ward played in our cafeteria (we had no auditorium, and the chapel wasn’t large enough to hold the entire student body) with his band Elán, Peter came.  After the concert, Peter wept.

I, a musician in my own mind, found the concert interesting and enjoyable.  Elán was an avant-garde jazz band that did a lot of atonal and non-metered instrumental music.  They were very good at it.  I don’t know that I would have bought an album had they offered one, but it was the sort of music a composer should hear at least once so he has some idea of what’s beyond the traditional boundaries of music.

Peter was a pastor, in training, and his memories of the performances of James Ward were that they ministered.  Elán did not minister; they performed, and they talked about how they achieved some of the effects, like a song that really was a musical version of an impressionist painting of a sunrise.  For Peter, every good thing about a James Ward concert was lost.

Perhaps half a decade later, when Mourning to Dancing was released, Ward commented in an interview that people “didn’t understand” Elán.  I thought at the time that he was wrong, at least that in relation to his earier fans–such as Peter–it wasn’t about whether or not they understood the music, but that they missed the ministry.  I once sat on the edge of a conversation between some listener who had opinions about the nature of music (possibly reflecting Francis Schaeffer’s work) and some Christian musician who had grown up in church (and it may actually have been Ward after that concert) in which the musician was attempting to elicit from the listener an explanation of what made particular kinds of music “Christian” or “not Christian”.  As a composer, I am inclined to agree with the musician:  if modernist tonalities communicate what I want to say, they are Christian to the degree that I am communicating a Christian messsage through them.  However, if I have placed this conversation correctly in my memory, both parties were missing that critical element:  it isn’t whether the music fits a particular style or mold, but whether it is communicating a worthwhile message.  Pendereki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is one of the most discordant atonal non-metered pieces ever written, but it communicates something significant.  There is no particular reason why avant-garde jazz could not be a medium for a Christian message.  The problem with Elán was that it wasn’t.

Peter and I never talked about Ward again.  He left Gordon-Conwell for a pastorate in Pennsylvania, and I became a Christian disk jockey in southern New Jersey.  Thereafter we were rarely at the same family gatherings, and the matter never arose.  However, I received Ward’s Mourning to Dancing album at the radio station, and the spare copy went into my collection and was much enjoyed here.  It is the kind of album that has no losers on it, and which is best heard straight through.  From the opening strains of Highway (reminiscent of the the Elán days until the verse shifts into light rock), the album gives insights into the life of an on-the-road Christian musician along with solid Christian songs such as Hold Up My Hands (no online video found), Who Can Separate Us (again, no video found), and then the mellow title song Mourning to Dancing.  The “B” side began with another glimpse into the life of the musician, Late At Night Again (again, no video), and the intriguing Holy Observer (need I say it?), then Gotta Get Home (“…to her own bedroom….”) (again), in which the life on the road includes that he traveled with his wife and young daughter.  The bouncing Precious Is Your Mercy follows, and I am really disappointed at just how many of these are not available online, but the final song, the wonderful So His Honor, was covered by the band Truth in this recording.

I find myself very confused as to why I recognize the cover of his next album Faith Takes a Vision, but none of the titles are familiar and the music is barely so, despite being very good.  Maybe it was just that I didn’t get a copy so it slipped into forgetfulness.  Listening to the vaguely familiar Not How, Maybe I’ll Trust You Now, Take Hold, Don’t Blame It On My God, and others, I can’t help feeling that I missed something good.

Those were the only albums I heard; I wish I had heard the one Peter had, which does not appear in online discographies, although I don’t know the title and barely remember the cover.

I feel I should mention that Ward’s talents lie in his musical compositions and lyrical content.  His piano work and arrangements are always solid.  His voice, though, is unique, and it would be easy to fault him there.  He does his own backup vocals quite well, but it would be difficult to imagine someone else blending with him.  He is in the category of singer-songwriters carried by the strength of their songs rather than their singing.  That’s not, from me, a criticism.  I just sometimes notice the flaws in his voice, as one does often with other popular singer-songwriters.  I like it overall; it’s expressive.  It certainly is not operatic, and probably wouldn’t win any television competitions.  Yet it makes for comfortable listening.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos

#289: Stifling Lozman’s Protected Speech

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #289, on the subject of Stifling Lozman’s Protected Speech.

From one perspective, the most interesting thing about Fane Lozman’s recent victory at the United States Supreme Court is that it is the second time this ordinary citizen has taken a case to that court, and the second time he has won.  It really does happen in these United States, although in fairness he solicited aid from a law school and a group of pro bono attorneys.

The reason it is of interest to us is that this second win is an Amendment I Freedom of Expression case, a subject we follow with some interest.

The previous case is only of passing interest to us, more as background to the second.  Lozman built a floating house, which he had towed to various places until he docked it at a marina in Riviera Beach, in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The city wanted to exercise eminent domain over the marina to seize it, tear it down, and put it in the hands of a commercial developer.  Lozman objected, and brought a lawsuit against the city for improper procedure when they attempted to pass the measure a day before a Florida state law went into effect making such use of eminent domain illegal.  He won that suit.  However, while he was involved in this, the city declared that his house was a “vessel” under maritime law, and seized it.  Lozman fought this, stating that his house was not a “vessel” under the definitions provided in the law, and therefore not subject to seizure under that law.  In Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 568 U.S. 115 (2013), the Supreme Court agreed.  The house was not designed to be a mode of transportation, and for this and several lesser reasons the court concluded 7 to 2 (Sotameyer and Kennedy dissenting) that maritime jurisdiction was inappropriate, and the city owed Lozman a lot of money to replace his home.

In the midst of these battles, Lozman showed up at a City Council meeting, and during the public comments time stepped forward and began calmly talking about political corruption.  It is said that he spoke for about fifteen seconds when one of the Councilmen instructed the police officer who was present for the purpose of maintaining order to remove him from the room.  He was handcuffed and charged, but the charges were dropped.  However, he filed suit claiming that his Amendment I right to free speech was violated.

In Fane Lozman, Petitioner v. City of Riviera Beach Florida, 585 U.S. ___ (2018), the Supreme court in an 8 to 1 decision said that it was–but noted that there were special circumstances that made it so.

At the head of those special circumstances, Lozman had presented evidence to the effect that the City Council had previously adopted an official policy of intimidation against him and others who had spoken out against them, and asserted that his arrest was executing that policy.  The evidence included a transcript of a closed Council meeting in which Councilmember Elizabeth Wade suggested that the city use its resources to “intimidate” Lozman and others who had filed lawsuits against the city.  At a later point in the meeting, one of the other councilmembers asked whether there was “a consensus of what Ms. Wade is saying,” and this was affirmed by others present.  Lozman asserts that these remarks formed an official plan to intimidate him.

The lower courts held that because there was probable cause to arrest Lozman at the meeting (on the very minor charge that he did not stop speaking when asked to do so, and thus was considered disruptive to the meeting) he could not claim the arrest was retaliatory.  However, the Supreme Court decided that if a jury might believe that the closed door meeting comments created an official policy of retaliation, and if the arrest at the later meeting was an implementation of that policy, Lozman would prevail.

It does not mean that all cases in which people are arrested for trying to speak at public meetings and so disrupting the meeting involve violations of Amendment I free speech rights, but only those in which there is evidence that the arrest is part of a government policy of intimidation against the person arrested.

Justice Thomas dissents, stating that the rule propounded by the majority is too convoluted and might never apply in any case including the present one, and that the previous rule in essence said that if probable cause was present no case for retaliatory arrest could stand, even if it involved freedom of speech.

Justice Thomas is right:  it is a bad decision.  It allows governments to harrass citizens exercizing their freedom of speech at meetings as long as there isn’t a paper trail suggesting that they agreed to do this.  Lozman probably wins (and I think that when Justice Kennedy writes that a reasonable juror would have to be able to believe that the statements at the closed meeting created a policy and that the action at the open meeting implemented it he believes that they would) because the idea of intimidating him was discussed on the record at a meeting.  If the Committeemembers had discussed this at a coffeeshop or cocktail party and agreed informally to do this, he would have no case–but his rights would have been just as impinged.

.

Meanwhile, the dissent’s probable cause test is worse.  I once was discussing a law that deprived anyone who had been convicted of a felony of certain rights, and commented that felonies were generally rather serious crimes.  I was informed that legislatures had taken to defining more and more crimes of lesser and lesser severity as “felonies” in order to enforce stricter penalties against them.  In the present case, it seems initially Lozman did not believe there was probable cause for an arrest, and there was some doubt as to whether there was probable cause for the charges initially brought.  He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence–the former because he stepped up to the podium to raise issues at a public meeting, the latter because he refused to relinquish the podium when asked.  The District Court found that as a matter of law there was insufficient evidence to support probable cause for either of those charges.  However, the city dug up another statute prohibiting interruptions or disturbances in schools, churches, or other public assemblies–a charge never mentioned prior to the trial–and maintained that there was probable cause to arrest Lozman on that charge; Lozman conceded that there was probable cause for that.  That, though, shows that if the authorities want to arrest someone, they can probably find probable cause to do so if they look hard enough.

What was needed was a looser rule, one that permitted evidence of a pattern of intimidation to stand as proof of an intention of intimidation.  Lozman’s case adduced many incidents of arbitrary official actions taken against him; the stifling of his right to speak at the public meeting was the most egregious because it impinged his Amendment I freedom of speech.

The claim that Lozman’s speech was off-topic was insupportable.  In the first fifteen seconds he spoke of two government officials in other jurisdictions that were arrested for corruption.  That could be the preamble to any of a dozen on-topic speeches.  For the committee to have claimed he was speaking about something outside the parameters of the meeting is not defensible.

.

Congratulations to Lozman for winning twice at the Supreme Court (and winning several lower court cases along the way).  However, this decision is going to have to be modified by future ones before it is at all useful in the defense of free speech.

#288: Prophets Daniel Amos

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #288, on the subject of Prophets Daniel Amos.

When I arrived at the radio station and first encountered the self-titled 1976 debut album from Daniel Amos, my reaction was, why have I never heard of these guys?

Not that they were the top of my list of favorites then.  They were the sort of southern country rock typified by The Eagles, and I have always joked that The Eagles were a country band (because they rank among my wife’s favorite rock bands, and she declares vehemently that she hates country music).

On review, I remember The Bible.  However, the song that sticks with me, the one that decades later I still sing sometimes when I’m driving in the car, is the nineteen-forties jazz-styled novelty Skeptic’s Song.

I never heard the follow-up Shotgun Angel, but they moved away from the southern fried rock sound with Horrendous Disk, an album I think I never heard because the program director decided it was too extreme for our format at the time.  I do remember seeing it, but that isn’t much help.

I’m not sure whether they were influenced by Mark Heard (we’ll get to him eventually) or whether they were reaching the same conclusions independently, but their next album was something called ¡Alarma!, volume one of three in The ¡Alarma! Chronicles.  The songs were Alternative Rock and New Wave, the target audience the secular listeners of Europe.  It was set up as something of a rock opera type album, and its liner notes went for enough pages almost to qualify as a novella, telling the first part of a story which had me lost and confused.  I more vaguely remember the second volume, Doppelganger, and am sure I was out of the station before Vox Humana was released.

I’m guessing that it must have worked somewhere, because they not only managed to release all three volumes (albeit on three different labels), they continued releasing albums in spits and spurts up through last year’s Ten Biggies From Beyond.  I was impressed by the quality and direction of their work, even though very little of it actually appealed to me.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.

#287: They Can’t Take Your Car

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #287, on the subject of They Can’t Take Your Car.

I think most of us became aware of the criminal civil forfeiture rules from the original Miami Vice television series.  The narcotics division seemed to have an unbelievable budget, covering expensive sports cars, helicopters, mansions, and so much more.  What we learned was that the State of Florida had a law that permitted the seizure from criminals of any property used to facilitate the commission of a crime, and so our star detectives were outfitted and equipped with everything that had belonged to the major drug dealers they had arrested.  The program worked so well, about half the states in the Union adopted a similar program, enabling them to fund ongoing law enforcement operations from seized cash and property taken from those successfully convicted.

The programs work so well, they are often used against minor offenders, that is, persons committing minor offenses, when there is valuable or useful property coveted by local law enforcement officers.  The United States Supreme Court has now dealt that practice a significant setback, although it has not entirely eliminated it.

The case is Tyson Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. ____ (2019).

Having pled guilty to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft, Timbs was sentenced to one year home detention and five years probation including a court-supervised addiction treatment program.  He was also ordered to pay fines and court costs totaling one thousand two hundred three dollars ($1203.00).  However, at the time of his arrest he was driving a Land Rover sport utility vehicle which he had purchased for forty-two thousand dollars ($42,000.00); it was established as a fact that the money for the SUV came from a life insurance policy payout upon the death of his father, and not from any criminal enterprise.  Asserting that the vehicle had been used to transport heroin, the state filed a claim for forfeiture in civil court.

The trial court denied the claim.  It observed that the maximum fine assessible against Timbs for the crimes for which he was convicted was ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00), and the value of the vehicle was over four times that amount not long before it was seized.  Citing the VIII Amendment prohibition against excessive fines (appropriately dubbed the Excessive Fines Clause), it maintained that such a forfeiture was a penalty disproportionate to the crime, and thus unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, stating that the Excessive Fines Clause did not apply to the states.

Justice Ginsberg wrote that the Indiana court was wrong.  The entire court agreed with that decision, although Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion reaching the same conclusion on a different basis and Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion noting that Thomas might be correct.

As originally passed, the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal Government.  The passage of the XIV Amendment following the Civil War has been understood to cause nearly all the rights protected in it to apply equally against the States, with very few exceptions.  (The one exception noted by Ginsburg is the requirement that jury decisions must be unanimous, which apparently does not apply to the state courts.)  Ginsberg argues that the protection against unreasonable fines, like other VIII amendment protections such as excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty”, and thus applies as they do.

Justice Gorsuch agrees, with the quibble that it perhaps is not the Due Process clause of the XIV amendment but that amendment’s Privileges or Immunities clause that brings the VIII amendment to bear against the states, but agrees that this is not a significant matter in the present case.  That quibble is the basis of Justice Thomas’ concurrence.  He maintains that the concept of “due process” has been stretched beyond any reference to any process due to the citizen to cover exactly those privileges and immunities that were intended to have been covered by the other clause.

The bulk of both the majority opinion and Thomas’ concurrence consists of the history of the right against excessive fines, ranging from Magna Carta through the post Civil War passage of the XIV amendment, and is informative and interesting but not otherwise of consequence here.

The question, then, is what does the decision mean?

It does not mean that asset forfeiture has been swept away in all cases.  Rather, it means that the Indiana trial court was right:  the value of objects seized by law enforcement must be reasonable to the nature of the crime and the assets of the criminal.  Had Timbs transported the heroin in a three thousand dollar used car on which he was paying installments, we would not be having this discussion.  It remains to be seen whether Miami’s narcotics division will be able to argue that the nature of the crimes and the assets of the criminals in their war against drugs are high enough to justify seizing those assets for use in the fight, but they will have to be prepared to make that argument the next time they seize such assets.  The temptation for governments to fund their operations through fines rather than taxes has been dealt a setback, a limitation to which abused citizens can appeal in the future.  The protection of citizens against arbitrary seizure of property has been reinforced.