Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Death Row Jesus!

Fast on the heels of David Limbaugh's "Jesus on Trial" book with the, uh, familiar cover, legendary Razorite Lane tipped me off about a Texas ministry's new media project "Death Row Jesus."  According the story in the Houston Chronicle, here is what the project is about:

The new commercial shows a shackled Jesus clad in an orange prison jumpsuit being led by guards through a prison block filled with all manner of sinners, including rapists, murderers, prostitutes, corporate sharks, even someone who could be a Westboro Baptist Church member (complete with a picket sign) sitting in cells wallowing in their actions. He is later beaten by guards and shown dying on a cross in atmospheric footage.

"Preachers, prostitutes, popes and pedophiles are all equally undeserving of Christ's love," said Miller in a press release this week, "but we all receive his forgiveness on the same terms."

I heartily agree.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


The Dump

Waco has a dump-- a big hole on the outskirts of town where you can back up your car and toss stuff in.  You paid by the pound; they weighed your car on the way in and the way out.  

The dump fascinated me, and I loved going there.  There was something very honest about it, in the way that there is an honesty to meat-eaters who occasionally kill the animals that they eat.  When you go to the dump, you find out exactly where it is that your trash goes.  For some people (including me), it pulls in favor of recycling when you can, but also towards the realization that there are worse things than tossing out a plastic wrapper-- it is going to a great big hole, and there is still some room for it.  

Monday, September 01, 2014


Pencils and crayons and… everything!

Wow!  16 great haikus last week about school supplies… but the one that intrigued me the most was this, from "Renata Tebaldi":

I went to high school,
Without my lunch. Hallelujah
for Potter's Drug Store.

Where succulent tuna
Salad lived with barbeque
Potato chips and

Pickles and icy
Coca Cola in shapely
Green glasses behind

The lunch counter and
Its white formica glory.
The round red stools like

Swiveling contraband
Mushrooms on slender steel
Stems,gateway to Flirt.

Lunch is not,so they
Say the most important meal.
But the lore of it

Lingers like some legend
More than any algebraic
Theorem or chart.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Gettysburg

Not long ago, I was driving through Pennsylvania, and found myself spending the night in Gettysburg, site of the crucial Civil War battle and Abraham Lincoln's masterful Gettysburg Address.  The battlefield surrounds the little town; it is maintained as a national historic site.

At first, I was underwhelmed.  A battlefield after the battle, of course, is just a field, and that is what I saw.  But there was… something, and in the quiet I could sense it.  It isn't quite what I would call sacred ground, but there was a strong sense of place, an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Tens of thousands died.  After the battle, mothers picked their way through the bodies, looking for what was left of their sons.  In a side yard, limbs were stacked like wood.  You can't think about such tragedy without feeling it, and I did.
Lincoln wrote this:  

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Did you miss this?

One of the things I forgot to comment on this summer was the remarkable week where Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Waterson took over drawing the modern Pearls Before Swine comic strip.  You can read the whole story here (and you should!).   

But... don't tell IPLawGuy.  I don't think he can handle it.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Haiku Friday: School Supplies!

We started classes this week at St. Thomas, and it looks like I've got two great groups of students in my classes.  I'm excited to be teaching again!

Of course, this time of year is all about school supplies-- whatever that may be for you (judging by the photo above, at the University of Minnesota it is a giant tank of gasified something).  So let's haiku about that this week!

I can go first:

Brand new protractor;
But what does it do, really?
Never learned that.

Now it is your turn!  Your haiku can be about anything related to the start of school, really, so long as you more or less put five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third...

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Faith and Ferguson

The Huffington Post is running a piece I based on a blog post from a few weeks ago, titled Faith for the In-Between Times.

Here is how it starts:

In Minnesota, this is an in-between time. Summer is over, the pool is closed, but it isn't quite fall yet. We know what was, and what is coming. There is something awkward about it, a sense of displacement.

We aren't comfortable with such empty, undefined spaces. This kind of discomfort is playing out right now in the discussion over events in Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer. We are in this space between the tragedy of the killing and the announcement of an indictment (or failure of an indictment). As Ron Fournier pointed out in a great National Journal piece, there are some things we know (that the police are militarized, and that Brown was shot six times) but a lot that we don't know. In that in-between space we are deluged with conflicting reports and passions. We don't yet have a complete or authoritative report or picture of events, just a space that we have filled up with theories and reaction. It can be a toxic place.

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The Limbaugh-Osler connection

So, in 2009 my book "Jesus on Death Row" came out. I wrote it over several years, relying on my experience as a prosecutor and a law professor to draw out the similarities between modern practice and some features of the Christ's experience as a capital defendant.  It was a fascinating experience, and I loved writing it and (later) talking about it. The book was deeply personal-- it was hard to hide the fact that researching and writing it profoundly affected and grew my faith.

I was particularly happy with the cover my publisher came up with-- a crown of thorns transformed into razor wire, paired with my name and the subtitle "The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment."   I'm working on another book now, which tells the story of doing the Trial of Jesus in (as of now) 11 states and in a wide variety of settings.

So... yesterday I got an email from Bob and Mary Darden
alerting me to the fact that someone else apparently liked that
idea.  Rush Limbaugh's brother, David, has written a book 
called "Jesus On Trial."                                                                                  

The cover features a crown of thorns, the subtitle ("A lawyer affirms the truth of the Gospel"), and Limbaugh's name.  Oh, and a blurb from Sean Hannity.

On the publisher's web site,  the book is described this way:  In Jesus on Trial, New York Times bestselling author David Limbaugh applies his lifetime of legal experience to a unique new undertaking: making a case for the gospels as hard evidence of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Limbaugh, a practicing attorney and former professor of law, approaches the canonical gospels with the same level of scrutiny he would apply to any legal document and asks all the necessary questions about the story of Jesus told through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His analysis of the texts becomes profoundly personal as he reflects on his own spiritual and intellectual odyssey from determined skeptic to devout Christian.

The Limbaugh book doesn't come out until September 8... but I will be patient!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Zut alors!

Not that I usually watch the European track championships, but I thought this was pretty amazing:

Monday, August 25, 2014



There were some great haikus regarding the French (see them all here), but my favorite was from my dad:

A soft French spring breeze
the evening's light scattered
by her wine glass. 

Here is one of my favorite photos of his (you can see more at

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Sunday Reflection: In Between Times

In Minnesota, this is an in-between time.  Summer is over, the pool is closed, but it isn't quite fall yet.  We know what was, and what is coming. 

I find that I have in-between times in my own pattern of life, too.  There will be frantic activity, with another coming up, and I am in that valley.  I am learning to use it well, to recharge, rather than feeling anxious that I'm not doing enough right now.  And I do have to learn; that's not something I am good at.  I have friends like Susan Stabile who have routines of prayer and meditation that I admire, but that is a very hard thing for me to do. 

Perhaps what is happening is that I am beginning to recognize that not all days need to be the same.  There is a reason Jesus kept asking people if they kept the Sabbath-- it's important to have that day that is different. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Recipe Time: Grilled Chicken Salad

I picked this one up from the Cottage Family Restaurant in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. 


Half-pound of grated cheddar cheese
Iceberg lettuce (to taste)
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
One Quart of blue cheese salad dressing
Large serving of french fries


Grill or fry the chicken breast
Combine the remainder of the ingredients except the french fries
Place french fries on top of salad
Quart of dressing may be placed on the side

Friday, August 22, 2014


Haiku Friday: The French

Based on the above song by Vincent Delerm and a lot of other French pop music, it would be safe to assume that the French are vampires.  I mean, listen to the song!  He might as well come right out and say he wants to suck your blood.

But their similarity to vampires is only one of the many fascinating aspects to French culture.  Let's haiku about the French today!  C'mon, it will be fun... and I will allow broad license in addressing the topic.  Here, I will go first:

He wore a cape (yes!)
Drew naked women with chalk
Oh, foreign exchange!

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson

I have held off on writing anything about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the unrest that has followed that death.  There is a reason for my quiet:  I don't know what happened there (at least in relation to Brown's death), so there is not much to say.  Yet.

And that "yet" is important.  It could be that we find out that this was a murder, that there was no struggle for a gun or anything else that might justify shooting Brown six times (at least).  But, we don't know yet.  It is the prosecutor in me that stills my voice when the facts are not yet clear.

What we DO know is this, though:  based on the mis-handling of the protests after the shooting, we have started an important national conversation about the militarization of the police.  That, too, is a complex subject.  For example, when the police execute a warrant against a fugitive, they will use military tactics to enter and secure the house-- someone will go in on point, others will cover him and spread out, and people in the house will be quickly incapacitated.  There is a reason to do it that way:  It's to stop anyone from hurting the officers or impeding the arrest, and that makes sense.

Here is what does not make sense:  Police forces having military equipment like MRAPS, or using the tactics they used to confront protesters in Ferguson.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Radio waves

On Monday, I was driving home from work and listening to my favorite NPR show, which is "On Point with Tom Ashbrook."  They were talking about college, and specifically the Ivy League, when "Mary from San Antonio" called in.  I knew right away that it was Mary Darden-- and it was.  She made the best point of all, about the need to teach in a way that allows for joy and feeling.  I sat in the car quietly thinking about that.  It wasn't so odd that Mary was on the radio (I've been on that show myself), but the fact that I heard her familiar, wise voice right there.

It's like that sometimes.  I turned the channel and heard this:

It's a song that means something to me, as I have written here before.   How can you not love this?

Running to the door [Pips: Running to the door]
Peeping at the window [Pips: Peeping at the window]
Hoping to see… only you.
Listenin’ for the phone [Pips: Listenin’ for the phone]
Checkin’ out the time [Pips: Checkin’ out the tic-toc]
Counting every second down,
Hear me now…. 5,4,3,2,1!

It's a big, small beautiful world, and fall is coming.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


In today's New York Times...

The editorial board of the Times supports the proposal Rachel Barkow and I have made regarding clemency in an editorial today.  They even cited to our article, which is coming up in the University of Chicago Law Review. 

It is, as usual, a well-written piece.  Here is the heart of it:

Mr. Obama’s failure to wield the pardon power more forcefully is all the more frustrating when considered against the backdrop of endless accusations that he is exercising too much executive authority, sometimes — his critics say — arbitrarily if not illegally. In this case, he should take advantage of a crucial power that the Constitution unreservedly grants him.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Miss Piggy!

Of all of the Muppets, Miss Piggy is the one I have had the most trouble with.  I'm not sure what it is, but something about that pig just rubs me the wrong way.  Even as a kid, I would yell at Kermit:  "Run!  Run!" but it didn't matter.

However, maybe I can rethink this based on Renee's haiku:

Porcine bulk she's
Kissable and curled luscious like
Mae West and throws her 

Pearls and hips before 
Frogs.Falsetto caresses,
"O Kermie!" Ruthless 

When defied or at 
The mere mention of bacon
Boa'd,never boring.

Not fraidy,like Wilbur
This is a pig in charge.Born
To bling.Chutzpah, thy

Name is Miss Piggy. 
Gimmee some sugah,Sausage!
Piggy...WAIT! Don't hit me...

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Sunday Reflection: On Boyhood

Yesterday, I saw the movie Boyhood, and it was great.  It tracks a family over 12 years, and was filmed over the course of those 12 years-- the photos above are of the main character during this time period.  

There were three things that lingered with me afterwards:

1)  It made me miss Texas (it takes place all over the state).  Oddly, though, it didn't make me miss central Texas, where I spent 10 years and where most of the action in the movie takes place.  Rather, it made me miss West Texas, especially the area around Alpine and Marfa, where I once had an epic roadtrip with IPLawGuy.  I'm not sure why that is, though it may be because of the strange beauty of it, and the solitude.

2)  I loved a short passage in the film that dealt with faith.  The kid is given a Bible, and the family goes to a church out in the country.  The minister gives a short sermon, about Thomas' doubts, and it isn't a bad sermon.  It was one of those things you had to think through later-- the sermon's point was that you had to believe without proofs, and the kid seems to be thinking about that.  But... he never goes back.  There is something deep there, about religion in our time.  Simply insisting that people believe because they should isn't working very well.  The richness of the message is too often lost.

3)  There is a line in the movie, spoken by the mother, that I often hear.  She has made some choices that made things hard for her kids, and she looks at her son and says "I did the best I could."  I've never been comfortable with that answer; it rings false.  I know that there has not been one relationship in my life where I "did the best I could." because in each I could have been better.  I have always been imperfect-- not just in an absolute sense, but in comparing my choices to what was possible for me at the time.  I have never done the best I could.  I learn, I hope, but I have never once met that standard-- not at work, not in relationships, not in anything.  I reach for the holes, and believe them when I feel them.  They are always there.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


The best TV show

Lately, I've been catching up on "Arrested Development" on Netflix.  It's the first show I've watched from end-to-end in a long time, and it is excellent.  I mean, it's no Sesame Street, but still...

Friday, August 15, 2014


Haiku Friday: Sesame Street!

I'm not sure why I have been thinking about Sesame Street these days, but maybe that is just part of it being summer.  

There are plenty of haiku opportunities there!  Here, I will go first:

What was up with Bert?
He always seemed upset,
And so so yellow!

Now it is your turn!  Just make it 5/7/5 on the syllable count, and have some fun...

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