Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The women's frozen four!

You may have missed this, but last weekend Clarkson won the NCAA women's hockey championship right here in Minneapolis, defeating the Colgate Lady Grifters 2-1.

This is the third championship since 2014 for Clarkson, a relatively small school in Potsdam, New York, with about 4500 students. They play in division III in every sport except hockey-- and they are really, really good at hockey. Their roster includes a lot of Canadians.

I tried to locate some information about Colgate, too. Other than the questionable claims that the school "was founded in 1991 with a generous grant from the estate of Theodor Geisel," and "counted among its alumni all of the members of the Starland Vocal Band," (see them in the video below) I couldn't find much about Colgate online, though.

The all-Eastern final was unusual, in that since the women's NCAA hockey championship was begun in 2001, it has been won only three times by a team from the East-- and all three times, that champion was Clarkson. Curiously, there have only been three other champions: Minnesota has won 6 times, Minnesota-Duluth has won 5 times, and Wisconsin has won 4 times.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Palm Sunday Sermon

This weekend I will be giving the sermon at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis at 9:30 on Sunday-- please come!

The reading is this, from Luke 19:

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’[c]; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[d]

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

There is so much there to work with!  It is the last part that captivates me the most, though-- the teaching, and the threat that represented. Jesus didn't have power, but he had influence... and that, we know, is something deeper and more lasting and more dangerous to the established order than any temporal power can be.

Monday, March 19, 2018



So.... I'm not sure why the type in the post below is so tiny! Every time I try to fix it, it becomes even smaller.

Very strange.


Bad day poems

So, there were some good poems last week. I was especially fond of Megan Willome's, which left a lot in the shadows: 

The combination
of Valentine's, Ash Wednesday,

was combustible.

And then there was CTL's, which told more of the story, but left all the darkness of the shadows in place:

Sweaty and smiling,
Come home to strange, mournful faces.
Dad says "come sit down." 

Also, along these lines... confidential to CraigA:

Colgate women lost
Tears freezing on the red line
You did it, Clarkson!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Slipping off the road

On Friday, I found myself driving on a dangerous road. There was no obvious place to pull over and stop, and suddenly there were wrecks everywhere: a car that had slid under wires, two that had smashed into one another head-on, one in a ravine wrapped around a tree, and another where a boy looked out a broken car window, bleeding from the head, as a man tried to help him.

I slowed to a crawl. My car is a good one, with decent winter tires and all-wheel drive, and still I could feel the tires slipping and adjusting. There was a bit of panic inside of me, rising with each slip. Soon I was barely moving.

The thought came into my head that the car might just start slipping sideways, and I would be helpless. We would drift and slide and fall, unable to correct the course.

It didn't happen. I set my eyes straight ahead, went slowly, kept my hands on the wheel, and we passed through that dangerous area in a few miles. But still...

Is that what happens to some people? A terrible thing-- a great sadness, a mental illness, a catastrophic health failure-- takes hold of them, and then there is no grip, no control.

My dad wrote about a moment like that on his own blog last year. 

Where is God in that moment?

I know that some who survive give God credit for that. We don't know the view of those who died. But I do wonder if that is a moment of free will, or one of divine intervention; and if it is the latter, is that a moment of helplessness in a way?

There has been too much death around lately.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


You go, Retrievers!

Up until yesterday, number 16 seeds in the NCAA mens basketball tournament had a combined record of 0-135. That changed when the University of Virginia-- the top seed in the whole tournament-- was absolutely destroyed by 16-seed University of Maryland at Baltimore County, who won 75-54.

It was a great day for the underdog. It was also a terrible day for my bracket, which had UVA winning the championship....

Friday, March 16, 2018


Haiku Friday: Bad day

Not every day is the same. A lot are average, a few are extraordinary, and a few are terrible. Sometimes the terrible day is the result of our own mistakes, and sometimes it is out of our control. Either way, it is memorable. 

Let's haiku about those today-- a bad day of one kind or another, experienced or observed. Here, I will go first:

One-car accident
I slowed down to look; saw
His dog run away.

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

[That's one of my dad's paintings above. See more at]  

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Political Mayhem Thursday: Should Stormy Daniels Matter?

Led (somewhat oddly) by the Wall Street Journal, the press has been pretty breathless in giving us all the details on the Stormy Daniels-Donald Trump storyline. But... should it matter? I don't think so, unless you are Melania (who, from what I have heard, hates haiku and would probably never visit this blog). 

You know what matters? North Korea. Russian interference in our elections. The stunning lack of talent in the upper echelons of this administration, and the "chaos theory" of management that leaves us vulnerable and potentially leaderless should a crisis arise, and the complete abrogation of leadership on dozens of important issues, including climate change.

All of that is much more important than who D. Trump bedded in 2006.  Sure, it's a racy story, but it just isn't an important one. Unless of course, you are a moralistic religious person who has spent years obsessing over the sex lives of others. I guess those guys must feel it is important... Wait, what? They don't? Then I agree with them (on this one, anyways).

The side show is intended to distract from the shit show. But it is a mistake to fall for it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


The problem with Spring Break

Do you ever take a nap-- not a long one, but just a reasonable 45-minute respite-- and then when you get up you just... can't... get.... going? For whatever reason, coming back from Spring Break has been like that for me. It's just a slog for some reason. 

When I was teaching the first class back of Criminal Law, I was in the middle of explaining something about burglary and for some reason, as I was talking, I began wondering why it always seemed like Phoebe never quite fit in on "Friends."

It's not a pressing issue. I had to shake my head, literally, and re-focus. 

That's what it is like.

I'm pretty sure that I will get my groove back soon; if I don't it could be disastrous!

But, seriously, is anyone out there with me on this Phoebe thing?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


It's that time: The 2018 MN High School Hockey Hair Team

There are a lot of reasons that I love living in Minnesota. One of them is that people here just appreciate my kind of hair. Every year, they put together some all-star clips from the (televised and sold-out) high school boys hockey tournament (plus a few thrown in from the girls tournament, which Edina--"the little town from the West side with a dream"-- won this year).

So... enjoy.

Monday, March 12, 2018


On the mountain

So, I got to see the Medievalist on Saturday, when I got back from the ski trip. It was great to catch up with him, and find out what is what down in Waco these days. Plus, his haiku really hit things on the nose:

Climbing to the top,
Breathing the thin, cold, fresh air,
Viewing creation.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Bad Plane Evangelism

Yesterday morning, I was flying out of Jackson Hole on the little plane pictured above. As I sat down, a young woman took the window seat behind me. She edged in past an older lady in her 60's as she moved to her seat, and once they were buckled in they fell into conversation.

Almost immediately, the young woman started asking the older one if she "knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior," and whether she "was interested in eternal truth."

The older woman explained that she wasn't a Christian (I got the idea from her answers that she was Jewish). She politely parried each of the points the earnest young woman made... for example, when the younger woman asked "But can I ask you why you don't want to know about eternal life?" the older one explained that she was wary of easy truths about things we can't see.

Frustrated, the younger woman began to just argue with the older one, and insisting that she read either the Book of John or a tract that she had with her. The older woman, though, was clearly better-educated, smarter, and well-read (at one point she quoted Dostoevsky). The younger woman just started to talk over her. It took an unpleasant turn.

The older woman was remarkably patient, but eventually said she just wanted to read her book. The younger one did not accept that, and kept on making statements like "I know that many people don't want to know the truth. I'm going to pray for you."

It was excruciating to witness. As a Christian, I was horrified by what she was doing. Seen plainly, she was de-evangelizing, making a terrible impression for the faith on all around her (and I was not the only one listening in).  She was living the stereotype of Christians as pushy, arrogant, and insulting. I suspect that her performance will become a cautionary story told by some of the people who heard her, when they talked about why they weren't Christian, or what was wrong with the church..

As we left the plane, I asked the young woman if I could talk to her, and we talked about advocacy for a while. More than anything, I tried to tell her the same thing I tell my students: that people don't get argued into anything important; rather, we are transformed by stories. Jesus knew that. When he talked to people who weren't religious "experts" (the Pharisees, for example), he told stories, parables.  There is a deep truth in that. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Ski music

Sometimes I listen to music when I ski, even though it means I might not hear IPLawGuy's muffled cries for help from deep in a snowbank. I know what I to ski to-- a song with a good insistent beat and also a glide to it. Here are four of my favorites:

Friday, March 09, 2018


Haiku Friday: In the mountains

My people are old mountain people, from the fringes of Appalachia, where the mountains are worn down and rounded, walkable but sometimes wild. In that part of the country, people might not have ever been to a town twenty miles away, because a ridge divides them and there is no reason to cross it.  I grew up in the flatlands of the midwest, though, where a hill can be a startling and unusual thing.

Today I am in the big, new mountains, where there are high crags and sharp angles. Sometimes I ski along and stop for a minute, and then I look out and take it in. It is breathtaking. There is light and shadow and the vague hint of danger. 

Sometimes when I ski, I will track the path of someone who is a better skier than I am, tracing their cut right and left in the snow. It is shoplifting, a misdemeanor, to steal their path, and I do it because it fits the spirit of the place. People blazed trails and then others followed. The wagon tracks are still there, if you care to look. Sometimes I do one, and sometimes the other. 

So let's haiku about mountains today. Here, I will go first:

There are no tracks yet
So I will make them, eager
The mountain calls out.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2018


Gravity and me

I'm on vacation (there is nothing like adults having Spring Break), so no politics this Thursday. I just can't. In the meantime, maybe y'all can convince IPLawGuy (pictured above) to wear a helmet when we are skiing. He claims that wearing a helmet would "mess up his hair" and that if he had a helmet he couldn't "wear a cool hat like this one from [Walgreen's]." (At least I think his hat was from Walgreen's-- it had that swirly "W" on it).  I rigged him up a helmet out of a trash can lid, but he claimed it "didn't fit right." I guess I need to find a bigger trash can.

Yesterday was a great day on the snow. It was sunny, and you could see the mountains stretching out forever. The hills are steep here, and the snow is deep. I'm still getting my feet right, but by the end of the day I was doing ok.

I know people who are great skiers, but I am not one of them. I'm a pretty good skier who really loves it. And, frankly, on a day like today I would be fine just standing around on top of the mountain looking around.

Luckily for me, I got to do more than that. At the end of the day, as the people thinned out, I found myself heading down. I was under control, but not dawdling. After about 1,000 feet from where I dropped in, there was a ridge before the next part of the downhill. No one was on the downward slope, but there were a few people on the ridge staring over the edge. I decided not to stop.

As I went over the ridge, I found myself in the air. It was only a moment, but it was a great one. I pulled up a little, stayed tight. But there was something in that moment-- there was nothing under me. I was flying. It was thrilling. 

And then I landed. And it was fine-- I didn't crash or pinwheel my arms madly or land on one ski awkwardly (though I am very capable of all of that, probably at the same time). I came back to the earth, and kept on going, thankful. I got to the bottom and found IPLawGuy--who had finished before me-- reading a book.

"How did it go?" he asked.

"Pretty good," I told him. "It was a good day." 

And so it was.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


It's Spring Break

As yesterday's post attests, it has been a not-so-great week thus far.  But, it is Spring Break at UST law, so at least I have a chance for a little escape.

IPLawGuy (pictured above, driving the Barbie Jeep) and I are in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for some skiing. If you haven't heard of Jackson Hole, here are some key facts:

-- "Jackson Hole" is apparently an amorphous term used to refer to almost anything or anyplace in Northwestern Wyoming.

-- At the same time, nothing around here seems to be a "hole." In fact, it's all up above 6,000 feet or so, which is pretty much the opposite of a hole.

-- This seems to be a place for really serious skiers. You know, the kind with their leg in a cast. I'm not sure if that bodes well for us.

-- When we were renting the Barbie Jeep, there was a series of warning signs about the dangers of hitting very large animals. There were actually two different signs warning about hitting moose and elk, respectively. The one about elk featured a drawing of an enormous elk lying in the road, bleeding from the head as a totally smooshed car sits motionless while the driver, apparently dead, slumps over the wheel. So: don't hit an elk. Got it.

-- At the grocery store, everyone else seemed to be in the same boat as we were, meaning that they couldn't remember if the place they rented had a coffee maker or not, and if it did what kind of coffee it took. So we all stood around in the coffee aisle and talked about it for a while....

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


On the death of PS Ruckman, Jr., and the murder of two children

Last week, on Wednesday, February 28th, I received an unusual string of emails from PS Ruckman, Jr., a political scientist I have collaborated with in the past (and who appeared on the Razor here and here and here, among other instances). 

The 11 emails had massive attachments-- huge data sets involving clemency grants. That was his work, though; he studied historical clemency trends and sometimes shared data with the few others of us in the field. This was much more than he had ever sent in the past, though.  Only the first of those 11 emails contained any text in addition to the data files. It simply said "Would want you to have this and use freely." I didn't think much of it, and was overwhelmed with other things. I didn't respond. It has been that kind of a Spring.

The next day, March 1, he apparently altered his profile and cover photos on Facebook. He changed the profile picture to the sheet music from the Gotterdammerung, which you can see above. His Facebook cover photo was changed to a print of Caspar David Freidrich's "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog," which you can see here

And then, apparently, he shot and killed his two children, 14-year-old Christopher and 12-year-old Jack, before killing himself.  

I'm not going to speculate on why he would do this, as alleged. It is a horrific and unimaginable crime, and no circumstances would conceivably justify or mitigate it. 

This is, sadly, the fourth suicide I have reported on this blog.  In 2009, it was Mark Levy.  Then it was my friend Greg Tishar. That same year, I lost my hero, Katherine Darmer.

But this one is different. None of the others were murderers, murderers of children. And from the chronology above, it seems that the killing was thought out, planned, rather than impulsive. He preserved his work by sending it out to me and others. He tried to define what he was about to do-- perhaps a twisted version of heroism in his mind-- with his reference to the Gotterdammerung, which is the last part of Wagner's Ring Cycle of four operas. I saw it at the Met in New York when I was in law school, with Greg Tishar. It is a retelling of what in Norse mythology is referred to as Ragnorok-- the burning and destruction of the world by the Gods. In the end, the Gods themselves are consumed by flame. 

At the end of my book on criminal law, I wrote about how this field is all tragedy, and about the struggle to comprehend and control that tragedy. But this... this is beyond what I have imagined. Help me, if you can, to make sense of this world. 

Monday, March 05, 2018


The Dream

So, CraigA and I have the same recurring dream, it seems:

Dressing out for big 
game; cannot believe it - crap:
Left my skates at home!

While the Waco Friend's take a different turn:

Funny, I just woke
in a dream first time in months
complicated dream

On Air Force One forced
landing in an atoll night
woman with babe on board

Jackass president
trying to tell everyone
what to do to live

Sunday, March 04, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Too important for a committee of golfers

As most of you know, I've spent the last 23 years of my life immersed in narcotics policy in one way or another. I think the way we approach narcotics is incredibly important, for two reasons.

First, hard drugs can and do create real, lasting, and deep tragedies in the lives of people, families, and communities. That has never been more true than it is now, with a literal epidemic of opioid-related deaths.

Second, I know that our approach to fighting narcotics has also created real, lasting and deep tragedies in the lives of people, families and communities. On top of the devastation created by drug use, there is the devastation we have inflicted on one another  in misguided and unsuccessful attempts to address drug use and trafficking.

The cost of these twin debacles are nothing less than destitution, the loss of freedom, and death.

In the course of working on these issues, one thing I have found over and over again is that there are many people out there working on these issues who are better-informed, smarter, and more experienced than I am. I find that out every time I venture out into the world. You know who I found there?

I found a federal judge who has gone into prisons to check up on hundreds of the people he sentenced for drug crimes.

I found another federal judge who made his bones shutting down real kingpins-- international traffickers of heroin. When he issues a sentence, he does so with an intense focus on the harm of the crime yet a recognition of the humanity of all involved.

I found an ER doctor who was so fed up with dealing with overdoses and the parade of people trying to scam him for pills that his outrage went public.

I found a woman convicted of conspiracy and then granted clemency, dedicated to the healing, freedom, and recovery of women who face the wrongs and hardships she did.

I found an academic, a former Scalia clerk, who passed by other possibilities to go on an obscure commission and from there shake up the cruel certitude of drug sentencing.

I found people from the whole range of the political spectrum who knew that the two problems I cared about were real, and who dedicated their work to doing something about it.


Our President says he thinks what we do about drugs is important. And you know what he did?  In a place and time where there are people on the right, left, and center who have experience and passion on this topic, and people dying in a drug epidemic, here is who he has put in charge of the efforts, according to Politico:

-- Kellyanne Conway, who is a pollster. According to Politico, she is "quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a "just say no” campaign."

-- Andrew Giuliani, the 32-year-old son of Rudy Giuliani, who has no background in the area, but his plan to be a professional golfer didn't work out, so you know.... drug policy.

-- Oh, and there was Taylor Weyeneth, a 23-year-old who previously had, um, organized a fraternity golf event.

This is wrong, in a way that should make people angry. I know too many people for whom working on this problem is a vocation. It's why--if you ask them-- they are here on this earth. It is immoral to leave them to the side while golfers preside over what should matter.

Saturday, March 03, 2018


Eek! I'll cross that off the list of things to do...

An intriguing MIT study came at my yesterday for some reason, and I can't get it out of my head. In a nutshell, it analyzes the net pay of people who drive for Uber and Lyft, and the conclusions reached are pretty disheartening:

-- Median profit for the drivers is $3.37 per hour before taxes
-- Once vehicle expenses are factored in, 30% of the drivers are actually losing money
-- Turnover in the industry is between 50% and 96% a year

As someone who uses these services and has generally been pretty happy with it, I'm disappointed-- my assumption had been that the pay must be decent if so many people are doing it.

My own hunch is that the statistics may be skewed by a large number of people who try it but then decide quickly that it is not for them. Because they are new, they probably are not skilled at maximizing profits. I note that the numbers above are for all drivers, but (like any business) those who are good at it probably do more work and for a longer time period before quitting. That means that if we adjusted the numbers towards profit per total mile driven by all miles driven (as opposed to by all drivers), it might change things for the better.

But... I'm no MIT statistician!

Friday, March 02, 2018


Haiku Friday: Dreams

You have them. Sometimes, you remember them. And I think they are important, somehow.

So, let's haiku about dreams this week. You can write about one of yours, someone else's, a crazy or simple one, or even a dream of what might be someday (we're interpreting themes pretty loosely around here lately).
Here, I will go first:

I go up the stairs
In through a beaded curtain
There they are waiting.

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

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