Tuesday, August 04, 2020


The Lincoln Project

Most people have stumbled on the Lincoln Project one way or another by now-- they are a very prolific group of anti-Trump Republicans who have run a series of scathing ads. One of the leaders is George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.

It really seems like no one is agnostic on Trump-- there is a core group of people who love him and always will, and a lot of others who are very ready to boot him out. I run into very few folks who shrug and say "I guess he has some good ideas, and some bad ones."

The issue, of course, has as much to do with personality as anything else. Usually, that doesn't matter much to me. But at this point, aspects of his personality seem to be leading him away from what he should be doing-- creating, framing, and promoting a national strategy to combat the coronavirus.

Monday, August 03, 2020


In August!

Many great haiku this week, including this one from my dad (it's his birthday today, and yesterday the Waco Trib had this piece about his painting):

Maybe America will
declare all out war on the

We heard, too, from the Medievalist:

Dog days of summer,
Texas, suburb of the sun,
Time for gin tonic.

And from DDR:

Trump steps down, August
Hello, President Mike Pence!
Trump gets TV show.

And finally, a little picture from Desiree:

Soon kids go to school.
Mom's sad but tries to enjoy
last month of summer.

Sunday, August 02, 2020


Sunday Reflection: Stokely Carmichael was not the anti-John Lewis

Bill Clinton has been disappointing us for a while, in fits and starts. Last week, he did something that made me really shake my head.

Clinton was one of the people who eulogized John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In so doing, he said this: "there were two or three years there where the movement went a little too far toward Stokely,” he said, “but in the end, John Lewis prevailed.”

It was a subtle dig at Kwame Ture, who is often known as Stokely Carmichael (he changed his name in the 1960's).  Ture led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that Lewis was also a part of (he succeeded Lewis as leader in 1966), and was one of the original freedom riders. 

In 1964, the Democratic Party in Mississippi did not allow black Mississipians to participate in the party, despite the fact that 40% of the state population was black. Moreover, the party worked hard to deny blacks the vote at all. The Freedom Democratic Party was founded as an alternative, but the national Democrats refused to seat the representatives of that Party at the 1964 convention, instead seating the delegates of the racist official party. 

For a lot of people, including Ture, that soured them on American "democracy," which, as it was practiced in Mississippi, was not democracy at all. Given the facts, that isn't surprising, is it?  Ture went on to become an important figure within the Black Panther Party.

Ture's vision was pretty clear: working within white power structures would never lead to equality; instead, blacks needed to build their own power structures to achieve parity. 

It's not unfair to say that history has in some ways vindicated that view. 

But going back to Clinton's statement, the problem is not just the slight to Ture. It's that Clinton viewed what gains have been made as Lewis's and not Ture's. That's a gross oversimplification, and like most oversimplifications it isn't true. To make the limited gains against racism and inequality that we have made, both visions were needed.  And, more importantly in this moment, to make further gains there are going to have to be multiple voices that we hear from within the black community-- and we need to do that without dismissing any of them out of hand as being "communists" or terrorists. The truth is a rope with many threads.

Saturday, August 01, 2020


Posted without comment

Friday, July 31, 2020


Haiku Friday: What happens in August?

It seems like, at least in my lifetime, August can be the most surprising month. Things happen out of the blue more in August than in other months, it seems.

Of course, this whole year has been a little too much that way, hasn't it?

So let's haiku about August-- what we expect, what might surprise us, and what we wonder. Here, I will go first:

No Osler Island
This year- the border is closed.
So, wander instead?

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, July 30, 2020


PMT: Coronavirus etc etc etc.

What we hope is true is conflicting pretty strongly right now with what we know is true.

We hope that we won't have to suffer the effects of coronavirus anymore. We hope that we can send kids back to school and watch football and just have things be friggin' normal again.

We know, if we care to, that COVID is still raging in this country, with deaths edging over 1,000 a day and new cases plateauing at a high level-- around 60,0000 a day. 

We are going to have to choose between what we know is true and what we hope is true. We aren't always so good at that-- and that dilemma has subverted our efforts so far.

I want there to be school next month. As a teacher, I do not want to go back to teaching a bunch of postage-stamp pictures on a screen! But... reality is going to intervene, whether we want it or not. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


YLS '90: Robert Schapiro

I've been devoting Wednesdays to profiles of my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990. I was hoping this would be a great lead-up to our reunion this fall, but (like so many other things) that has been cancelled. Nevertheless, it has been a fascinating endeavor!

Robert Schapiro seemed like a law professor when we were all law students. He was super-smart and able to engage in an intellectual badinage with the instructors that put to shame the mumbling and pointing that I did. He just seemed to get a concept and move immediately into critique, which is a remarkable ability.

He came to Yale Law from a Phi Beta Kappa academic career at Yale College and a Masters degree in history from Stanford. The history background, of course, gave him insights into much of what we were learning.

He was the editor-in-chief of the Law Journal, and then moved on to clerkships in the Southern District of New York and the Supreme Court, with Justice Stevens.

He did a year at a big firm and then became the professor he always had kind of been. He has been at Emory Law School since 1995, and served as Dean from 2012 to 2017.

His academic specialty is federalism, a topic that is always relevant as the American experience constantly shifts power between the states and the federal government.  He's written a book and a slew of articles on the subject, showing an admirable focus. (In contrast, when people ask what I write about, I sound like a complete dabbler: sentencing, death penalty, narcotics policy, clemency, theater, etc. etc. etc.).

Here is discussing his area of expertise:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Baseball and schools

[pictured above per the NY Times: the Miami Marlins give each other coronavirus after their first game last week]

The President is pushing for schools to re-open next month in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic. This is probably a bad idea. Have you been to a high school lately? I have-- it's pretty much impossible to enforce any semblance of safe conduct in a pandemic. Kids are everywhere, jammed in the halls, running around, etc.

So, we got a pretty good preview of this in Major League Baseball. MLB decided to have an abbreviated season with limited travel.  They got four days into it before the pandemic came for them-- the Miami Marlins reported that (already!) 12 of their 30 players and two staff members had tested positive for coronavirus.

MLB has tremendous resources and a small group of people, and they could not pull it off. Why do people imagine that their local public high school will do better?

Monday, July 27, 2020


Haiku of the time

I'm not sure how much it had to do with "Summer Games"-- the theme of last week's haiku Friday-- but DDR zeroed right in on the statement above in writing this:

Person, Man, Woman,
Camera, TV-- That's Trump's
Recipe for fun!

{or porn}

Meanwhile, Jill Scoggins was right on target:

Building sandcastles
drip by drip with 3 year old
grandchild. Perfect bliss.

And my dad's read true:

Horseshoes in the sun
is fun but a cold beer in
the shade is better.

But the Medievalist painted the picture that really appealed to me:

Cold beer, a hot grill,
Monarchs play in the flowers,
Good conversation.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Sunday Reflection: What is being created?

Several months ago, back in March, I mused that the COVID epidemic might create a fascinating artistic moment-- a wave of creativity driven by dislocation and the uniqueness of this time.

I'm not sure that I was right. Yesterday I posted about the new Taylor Swift album, which is definitely a creature of quarantine, and is really good. But is there more, from less bland corners of our culture?

It could be that we don't know yet; that the nature of the pandemic is that the fruits of creativity won't be revealed until that veil is lifted.

Or, it could be that I was wrong. Something I failed to consider was the connection between creators and the audience; some art forms are not meant for isolation. The thought made me miss my friend Greg Tishar (who I remembered here). Greg taught me how to be part of that audience-- how to engage with passion and emotion, and that it was ok to loathe and to love what you were seeing or hearing. I miss that. Not having that makes me lonely in a way, a very specific way, that makes life less colorful.

A year ago, I went to Detroit to see a show that my dad had up at a gallery. It was magical to walk among crowds pointing and talking about the work, about what people liked and did not like. It was like watching the paintings come alive, the people in them walking with us, laughing.

Do we need that? I don't know. But I need that.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


If you can count on one thing from the Razor...

It's up-to-the-minute Taylor Swift news!

Well, not really. But she did release an album yesterday-- supposedly of things she wrote and recorded during the pandemic-- and it is supposed to be pretty good. Here is the first video:

Friday, July 24, 2020


Haiku Friday: Summer Games

It's summer. All kinds of outdoor games-- bocce, horseshoes, jarts-- take over the lawns, and even some of the indoor games come outside (see illustration).

Let's haiku about some of those this week. Here, I will go first (regarding said illustration, taken a week ago in Northern Michigan):

Social distancing
Can sometimes include moments
Of elegant joy.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, July 23, 2020


PMT: The Coronavirus Conundrum

On Tuesday, over 1100 people died of COVID in one day for the first time in a month and a half. It was inevitable that deaths would go up after total infections did, but it is a dispiriting reality.

Now the choices become harder.

If kids go back to high school and college kids return to their universities, there will be  another spike in infections-- at this point, that is simple math, given the inability for social distancing in those settings and the likelihood that mask use will be limited by the patience of teenagers.

But if school doesn't start, there will be a real personal and economic cost for many families and the nation. Workers will be unable to go back to work because their kids are at home, and even those who try to work from home while the kids are there will lose efficiency (as we have seen for months).

Plus, as the weather gets colder, the chance of doing things outside-- which turns out to be much less conducive to the spread of COVID-- will become more limited.

In Texas, there is much hand-wringing because the football season has been pushed back for some high schools.  Of course, it is a terrible idea to have a football season at all. "It should be ok, if kids are willing to take the risk," some coaches say. Right-- because kids are so great at cost-benefit analysis and delayed gratification for abstract outcomes, huh? And, of course, the kids might be ok. It's their grandparents who will die.

Many of us hoped this would be over by now. We are having to face the cruel reality that it just is not done. I hope we do, in fact, face that reality.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


YLS '90: Richard M. Lucas

I am devoting Wednesdays to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law Class of 1990, which has turned into a pretty fascinating task!

Richard M. Lucas came to Yale Law fresh from getting a business degree at Georgetown University. I think he was pretty rare in that-- you would have expected more people to come from business school but we were mostly a bunch of History, Philosophy, and English majors.

After school, he didn't mess around; he went straight to one of the nation's leading law firms, Arnold & Porter, where he made partner. He was there for 18 years, until 2008.

Then he made a big change-- something I see in a lot of my classmates. He moved over to the business side, first for Hilton Hotels and now with Walker & Dunlap, a big commercial real estate service and finance company, where he serves as the Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary (which frankly seems like a lot of jobs to do at the same time).

I've gotta think that commercial real estate would be a challenging business right now, with office space lying empty all over the place because of the pandemic. I'm hoping that the same lessons that sent us all in different directions are serving him well now.

Richard's daughter Kate has diabetes, and he has worked for years with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as a board member, advocate, and fund-raiser. Like many of my other classmates, he picked a cause and stuck to it-- the best way to make a difference.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Trump in Portland

I am alarmed by what federal agents are doing in Portland. In short, according to the New York Times, here is what is going on:

Federal agents in Portland have snatched protesters off the streets and thrown them into unmarked vehicles without explaining why they were being detained or arrested, according to some of those who have been seized. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, has called it “a blatant abuse of power,” and the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has called it “an attack on our democracy.” The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order against the federal agents for what she called unlawful tactics.

First, some context.

It isn't unusual for federal agencies to focus their attention on certain cities and certain crimes. For example, those projects have included gun reduction efforts in Richmond and narcotics interdiction in Miami. The bare fact that federal agents are taking on what are essentially state cases in defined localities is nothing new.

What is different, though, is that those efforts are usually conducted in close collaboration with local authorities, who welcome the extra manpower in addressing discrete problems. For many of us, even with these kinds of cooperative efforts, this raises a federalism issue (not to mention an over-incarceration issue), but because of the resources of federal agencies, it happens.

That isn't the case in Portland. So that's a double whammy-- a federalism issue, compounded by the fact that the federal project is contrary to the wishes of the locals.

And, of course, there is the problem of federal agents not being identifiable. 

For conservatives who believe in federalism and in accountability-- which is most of the conservatives I know-- there should be real red flags with this project.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Carey Cupcakes

We heard in verse from Nate about what he is up to:

Bar prepping all day
Practicing with a mask on
Is this lawyering?

And also from Desiree:

Driving to Richmond,
visit son number one and
eat Carey cupcakes.

I had to look up what Carey cupcakes are. I think it is this....

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Sunday Reflection: The Portrait

I got up yesterday early, and sat in a little grove of trees by a stream in northern Michigan with my parents. It has been great to see them again in person.

We talked about John Lewis, who had died the day before. Congressman Lewis was a remarkable man, and probably a lot of other families had conversations about him yesterday, of one kind or another.

Ours had a special element, though. My dad had painted John Lewis's portrait.

Often, my dad works from photos. For this, he took a series of pictures of Mr. Lewis in Ann Arbor. My dad said that he was struck by how John Lewis seemed not to crave attention the way other politicians tend to, but was gracious about the whole thing.

After that, my dad started thinking about the background. He had read somewhere that Lewis grew up in a wood house in Alabama, and thought that might be the backdrop-- the boards of that house. So, he got in his car and drove from Detroit to Alabama. Because, I suppose, that is how you get things right. That's how you tell the truth.

He knew that Lewis was from near Troy, Alabama, so he started there. The first people he asked didn't know who John Lewis was, but then he found some professors having lunch (from Troy University, I guess), and they knew that Lewis was from a nearby town.  So he drove that way.

When he got close, he stopped for gas. He struck up a conversation with another man there, and asked him if he knew where the wooden house was, the one where John Lewis had grown up. The other man said "That house wasn't wood! It's brick!" My dad asked the guy how he knew, and he said he knew because he was John Lewis's brother.

And that settled that.

So, instead, my dad did an American flag as a background, but not a waving clean one. It looks as if it is painted on broken concrete. There might be a bullet hole. Because, we can love something imperfect, like this country, and true patriots strive to make it better.  

Here is the portrait:

Saturday, July 18, 2020


The Croque Monsieur

This is masterful. But... starting with making the bread?!? And I guess my own first step will be getting a beautiful stand mixer like that with the question-mark shaped attachment....

Friday, July 17, 2020


Haiku Friday: How ya' doin'?

It's challenging times: the Coronavirus is still with us (wasn't this supposed to get better?), we are too often kept apart, the economy is in the dumps, and it has generally been a pretty tough year. So.... how ya doin'? 

Here, I will go first:

On a dark bridge by
A lake, a comet zoomed by
We all fell quiet.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, July 16, 2020


PMT: What's going on at the NY Times Editorial Page?

I've always been a fan of the New York Times editorial page. I've even gotten to place two pieces there-- here and here.  But lately things have gotten a little... weird. 

First, they ran a pretty dumb op-ed by Tom Cotton, titled Send in the Troops, which advocated sending in the military to counter protests and riots in response to the killing of George Floyd. Cotton is not only my least favorite Senator, but one of the worst politicians I have come across-- he blatantly follows the Trump playbook in stoking fear and division, and he consistently advocates for making criminal law even more punitive. He's a wealthy guy with two degrees from Harvard who often rails against the "elites." Crazy.

Did I agree with Cotton when I read his piece? No, I never do. But I often read things by people I don't agree with. Often I learn something. That wasn't true of the Cotton piece-- it was just opinion and bluster. But it does represent a point of view that a significant number of people have, including some veterans like Cotton, and I didn't think much of it.

Others did, though. 

Apparently, there was an uproar among the staff at the Times that led to the resignation of the Op-Ed editor, James Bennet. Then, this week, columnist Bari Weiss resigned, issuing a scathing letter that complained of bullying on Slack and Twitter. Weiss was a conservative, who had been brought in just three years ago.

I suspect the paper will survive just fine. I do hope that they will continue to seek balance on their pages, something they have achieved pretty well in recent years. That doesn't mean they have an obligation to publish voices of hatred on either side, or pieces that just aren't very good. But that still leaves a lot of room. 

And maybe it is time to send them something again.

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