Saturday, November 16, 2019


The theory that never dies....

Friday, November 15, 2019


Haiku Friday: Star Wars

Next month, the very last Star Wars movie comes out. It's titled "The Rise of Skywalker." For those of you following along at home, the movies came out over the course of four decades is series of three. First came what ended up being episodes 4, 5 & 6. They were followed by episodes 1, 2 &3, depicting events that supposedly took place before those in the first trio. Finally, we got episodes 7, 8 & (soon) 9, which take places after the events in the first 6 movies. It is all kind of confusing.

Anyways, even if you haven't see the movies, you have had to live with people who are obsessed with them. So, we can all haiku about this!

Here, I will go first:

Please remember, guys:
A Wookie is not a pet, but
An ace co-pilot.

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: Klobuchar is looking better each month

It's no secret that I have been a supporter of Sen. Amy Klobuchar's run for President. In fact, I was supporter even before she entered the race (as evidenced by this piece in The Hill)  and tried to encourage her here and there along the way. I even was standing in the snow for her wintry announcement of her candidacy in Minneapolis.

While Klobuchar is currently running about fifth or sixth (behind Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Biden), she is in a good position. She has qualified both for the debates next week and those in December, which present a great opportunity-- a smaller group and the chance to make gains as she did in the last debate.

As people take a closer look at the race, I think she will pick up support. There are a lot of people who thing Warren and Sanders are too far left, that Biden is unfocused, and that Buttigieg is too young (all arguable assertions, but very real perceptions). Klobuchar is none of those things, and offers real positives: she is experienced in government, realistic, smart, and able to step into the job with the ability to talk across the aisle. She also has a track record of winning in the kinds of places a Democrat will need to prevail. The map above, for example, shows the counties in Minnesota that voted for Trump in 2016... and also for her in 2018. It's impressive.

A lot is going to happen between now and the Democratic convention. Don't be surprised if Klobuchar is still around then.

If a Democrat is to prevail

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


YLS '90: Nancy Kestenbaum

On Wednesdays, I have been profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990. It has been such a revelation-- to find out the remarkable things they all have been doing.

Nancy Kestenbaum came to Yale after undergrad at Penn and a few years of work-- during the two years that I was goofing around as a process server in Detroit, she was doing serious work as an analyst for the Department of Energy.

At school, Nancy was a star among the group of geniuses, strivers and misfits that found themselves in that small, ferocious pool. She was smart and prepared and insightful in class and out of it-- which mattered, since a lot of our intellectual discourse was out in the hallways or the dining hall or the courtyard (or, occasionally, the Anchor Bar). She had something else, too that made her stand out: she was a caring, conscientious person, a good listener, who had a reassuring smile for some of us where a little rougher around the edges. It seemed certain that she would do great and good things.

And she has.

Like many others in our class who followed the same three-step pattern (including me, Rich Sullivan, Mike Schwartz, Jeb Boasberg, Vernon Grigg, Jim Brochin and others), Nancy clerked for a judge (in her case, the legendary Kimba Wood), worked for a firm, and then shifted to being a prosecutor. With Rich Sullivan and my late (and much missed) friend Katherine Baird Darmer, she worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. By all accounts, she was an excellent prosecutor, and rose to become the head of the general crimes unit-- a job that involves training new lawyers in the office and managing the disasters they can create.

From there, she moved on to the Covington firm in New York, where her talent shone through again. She was a member of the firm's management committee, and is now the co-chair of their White Collar Defense and Investigations group. Her work sounds fascinating. Among other cases, she was retained by CBS to conduct an outside investigation into their own CEO, Les Moonves. She also worked on a clemency case during the Obama initiative, among other pro bono projects.

Sorting though some of Nancy's work, I came upon this quote, which is just right:

I learned so much from my classmates. They were so smart and excited to be at YLS and to participate in what it offered. YLS fosters an atmosphere where people can engage and push themselves, but not feel as much pressure as they otherwise might. When I first entered law school, (now Second Circuit Judge) Guido Calabresi was Dean and he gave a famous speech during first-year orientation about “stepping off the treadmill.” My classmates and I took that advice to heart—we took risks and had fun.

I think it is still true of many of us: we are taking risks and having fun.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Minor Notes

Once again, I'm going to recommend going over to my Dad's blog and reading his reflections today. You can link to that here.

He covers a lot of ground. Eventually, he gets around to talking about the Famous Coachman, my favorite radio personality in Detroit, who had an overnight blues show (and a little record shop). His show was awesome, especially the awkward 6 AM handoff to "Parenting Journal," after the Coachman had been up all night.  And he describes Representative John Conyers, who was a jazz fan. My dad's portrait of Conyers is above. I'll never forget walking through the Eastern Market with my dad and seeing the two of them talking and laughing-- mostly laughing.

But mostly, he talks about the Good Blues, which often gets to me this time of year. (I described it before here). He talked about it this way:

Jazz got embedded under my skin not because it made me joyously tap my foot to the beat. It was the jazz played in a minor key that made a shy teenager know that it was OK to have the blues. In high school I would sneak out with a friend and go to Klein’s Show Bar to catch the after hours jam where local and national jazz musicians would do battle over who had the greatest hurt and soul. They wailed and pleaded, the sounds were so sweet and powerful that they chased all the teenage angst from my body. Jazz in a minor key can be a bittersweet remedy for a broken spirit.

I had some of that yesterday. I spent a lot of my day working on a pro bono case (well, all of my cases are pro bono; I'm a pro bono lawyer) and it was getting me down. My client is a guy who was serving a very long term for a very small amount of crack. He was an intended beneficiary of the First Step Act, which made changes to the crack laws retroactive. However, his judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky never gave him the chance to petition for it-- he pre-emptively denied my client any relief before he had even submitted a petition! The judge was wrong on the law, and wrong on the procedure. Federal courts across the country have granted people just like my client a break under the First Step Act.

So, I was a little down as I worked. How can our system of justice be so cruel and wrong so often?

Then I got an email from my dad with a link to his blog, and saw the picture of John Conyers, and laughed as I remembered the day in the Eastern Market, and felt the Good Blues. It is a place of meaning and value. I am lucky to have them as the leaves turn brown and the wind picks up and a morning with my dad at the Eastern Market or an evening at a warm jazz club seems like a pretty good idea.

Monday, November 11, 2019


How does that work???

I gotta say thanks to everyone who has offered haiku: there have been some great poems lately. This week, people took on the subject of mysterious processes with gusto!

We had this from the Medievalist (who should know that St. Peter MN saw its first snow yesterday:

Combustion engine,
I put gas in the tank and
"Check Engine" appears.

And more brilliance from Jill Scoggins:

Stem cells taken from
patient, processed, put back in.
This cures some cancers!

IPLawGuy, as usual, is on my wavelength:

"Color" is not real
light refracting on surface
Whoa! Mind still gets blown.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Sunday Reflection: All that I do not know

There was a long time that I thought that wisdom came from knowing a lot of things. Then I got to know some people with actual wisdom-- or maybe I came to recognize the wisdom in the people who had always been around me.

Knowing a lot of things is expertise, and that is important. We need expertise at the center of significant societal functions, like international relations and heart surgery.  I hope that I have expertise in those few areas I focus on (though I fall short on that sometimes).

That said, I have stopped confusing expertise with wisdom. Expertise has to do with the accumulation of facts, while wisdom has to do with how you see the world and those around you. I have found wisdom in people with little education, and I have found people with lots of education with little wisdom. One thing I have seen in common among those who seem to have wisdom is that they recognize what they do not know, and they listen more than they talk.

I know about the disputed provenance of John 8, where Jesus comes on the stoning of the adulteress and stops it (some scholars believe it was added to the gospel some 400 years after the time of Christ). Still, there is so much in that story, all of which vibrates with the same consistency as the rest of the gospels. Jesus is quiet much of the time, watching and listening. He draws something in the dirt, twice, and we don't even know what he writes. And, yes, he acts-- wisdom does lead to action. Timidity does not sit well with wisdom. And humility is no bar to making things right.

I'm not there; I'm not one of those I have come to admire. But I am learning to see better, to learn from those I admire, and to listen more. 

Saturday, November 09, 2019


The billionaires are worried

It seems that America's billionaires are genuinely worried about the tax plans being proposed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. There has been all kinds of hand-wringing, and now Michael Bloomberg seems prepared to jump into the race. Of course, he will be the second billionaire involved on the Dem side, after Tom Steyer.

Here is a little insight into him:

Friday, November 08, 2019


Haiku Friday: How does that work?

There are so many things I don't understand: Most of the sciences, languages, music, cricket, the respiratory system, etc. etc. etc. Let's haiku about that this week!

Here, I will go first:

I watch them build it:
A skyscraper from a hole
And it doesn't fall!

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

Thursday, November 07, 2019


PMT: The Most Local Election

I always vote. This week, I literally ran to the polls-- I combined a little run with my voting. The only thing on the ballot was a school board election, but those can be pretty important in a town like Edina, which cares a lot about its public schools.

There were three slots open for the school board. Three conservatives-- Sarah Patzloff, LInda Friede, and Lou Nanne-- ran as a bloc, sending out flyers together and grouping their signs. Patzloff was an incumbent. Running against them were three others (plus one guy who didn't seem to realize he had entered the race): Janie Shaw, Julie Greene and Leny Wallen-Friedman. I'll call the first group Bloc 1 and the second group Bloc 2.

Bloc 1 seemed led by Patzloff, who admirably committed to not attacking her opponents, and lived up to that pledge. I was troubled by her platform, though, which seemed to lean heavily on fears that the quality of the schools were being undermined by liberals who were too focused on serving minorities and poorer kids. I disagree with that on several levels, but one problem is that there isn't much evidence that the quality of the schools is going down even as they make appropriate efforts to better serve all of the kids. Patzloff received support from an entity here called the "Center of the American Experiment," which presents itself pretty typically in this article about an earlier dispute involving Patzloff. I suspect that Patzloff herself-- and certainly the other two candidates in Bloc 1-- are more concerned about kids and less about ideology that the people at the Center of the American Experiment.

In the end, Bloc 2 won all three seats. I don't think a larger lesson should be taken from this, other than that what Bloc 1 stood on to support their views didn't appeal to enough people. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


YLS '90: Jeb Boasberg

I'm devoting Wednesdays to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990.

James E. Boasberg (who was known, at least in law school, as "Jeb") came to Yale Law from four years at Yale College and a few more at Oxford. He was one fo the "Tall Boys" who shared a house for a few years and were generally a friendly lot.

Jeb was from DC, but clerked in the 9th Circuit and relocated to San Francisco for a while after law school before DC pulled him back. After stints at a couple of big firms, before spending time as an Assistant US Attorney there. (Interestingly, he was a federal prosecutor at the same time as me and previously profiled classmates Mike Schwartz and Rich Sullivan).

After five years of prosecuting, he became a Superior Court judge in DC and then was unanimously confirmed to the District Court there in 2010, having been picked for the job by President Obama.

As a judge, Jeb has a reputation for being smart and fair (good qualities for a judge!). He also serves on the FISA court, which issues warrants in national security cases. While some of his rulings (releasing Hillary Clinton's emails, not releasing Donald Trump's taxes) have been wins for conservative groups, others (ie, striking down work requirements for Medicaid recipients) have gone the other way.

In school, he always kind of looked like a judge. He still does.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019


Stuff to read!

My piece on the Brendan Dassey case is now up at CNN-- you can read it here (and I hope that you will!).

And if that isn't enough reading for you today, I really recommend checking out my dad's blog. Today, he is talking about a lot of things-- including photographer Robert Frank and musician Eubie Blake. You can take it all in here.

Monday, November 04, 2019


A bumper crop of Halloween Haiku!


We got a beauty from Holly Collison-- I was so glad to see her here, and loved this one:

Humongous lobster
Knocked on the door with his kid
Halloween dad win!

Christine maybe lives in a haunted forest:

The woods are scary
In the dark of the night, no
one dares to enter


I buy some candy
just in case someone shows up
More Reese's for me

IPLawGuy does not:

Kids took a new route
Had to miss house with chili
and beer for adults

Jill Scoggins went all-in!:

My dog's bee costume
was a hit: Kids loved the stinger
on his little butt!

And Susan Stabile had a lack of action:

It made me so sad:
Only six trick-or-treaters.
Lots of candy left.

Sunday, November 03, 2019


Sunday Reflection: Closed on Sunday

This morning at 9:30, I'll be giving the sermon at 1st Covenant Church in Minneapolis. If you can, please come! The text is from the start of Genesis 2:

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

I'm beginning with the video above. It makes the point I start from: that the Sabbath means something, and it should be different than the other days.

But there is a lot more to it. After all, every time Jesus was confronted about the Sabbath, it was because he was breaking the rules to help others. There is something to that-- we usually think about the Sabbath as being about ourselves (self-care), but that's not the whole message from the Gospels.

Yeah, there is a lot more...

Saturday, November 02, 2019



A lot happened to me in 1993. One thing was that I was up late watching the Conan show, and saw this performance by the Breeders. I don't think I had heard of them, and this song blew me away. It's not even a very good version of the song-- Kelley Deal breaks a string at about 1:53 and can't play a lot of the song after that (and yes, the band features twins). But they made the best of it...

Friday, November 01, 2019


Haiku Friday: All Hallows Eve!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! There are a lot of little kids in my neighborhood, and there were some great costumes. Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

Odd combination:
Buzz Lightyear runs with Eyeore
Everyone gets treats.

Now it is your turn! Feel free to haiku about any aspect of your halloween. Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Minnesota Project

It's no secret that I've been working to reform the clemency process in Minnesota, with a lot of help from my students at the University of St. Thomas-- I set the case out last week in an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Our Governor, Tim Walz, is a former high school teacher and football coach (and Congressman). He is also perhaps the only person I've met who is as enthusiastic as I am about clemency reform! Yesterday he gave a talk at a gathering of a new group I am a part of here, the Minnesota Criminal Justice Research Center. A good chunk of his talk involved clemency and our proposals. He talked about going through the strangeness of the Minnesota system for the first time-- of having people come and petition before him, the Attorney General and the Chief Justice, and having so many of them denied mercy.

Over the years, I've heard many smart people say that federal law only affects a fraction of the criminal justice system, and that to really get something done we have to work in the states. They are right, and I am taking that to heart. It's been a pleasure to work on here, too.

But... that doesn't mean I am done with the feds. Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Yale Law '90: Vernon Grigg

On Wednesdays, I'm profiling my fellow students in the Yale Law class of 1990. It's really a strange and wonderful group.

Vernon Grigg grew up in Arizona, then went to the University of Michigan before coming to Yale Law. My first year there, he lived next door with Rich Sullivan (er, the Hon. Richard Sullivan). We had a lot of fun that year-- it's fair to say we had a great time exploring New Haven.

Because he took time out to clerk on the Supreme Courts of Israel and South Africa, Vernon actually graduated a year after us-- but that was a pretty awesome reason to delay.

After law school, Vernon headed to San Francisco to clerk for a federal judge and then stayed there to do an extraordinary array of things. He worked for a firm, and later started his own. For five years (in fact, almost exactly the same five years that Rich Sullivan and I were both working as prosecutors, too), he worked for the San Francisco District Attorney, and rose to become the head of both the narcotics and the high-tech crimes unit there.  In that role, he was a true innovator, working to start drug courts and alternatives to incarceration.

After his stint in public service, he returned to private work. Among his specialties was working with sports franchises in crisis, which... well, there is work in that field.

Along with his legal work, Vernon now serves as the President of the Center for Electoral Equity, which works to make "electoral processes more transparent and more inclusive." Which is pretty important right now, as y'all already know.  In the community, he has led a number of other projects, including the preservation of the Bayview Opera House in the Hunter's Point section of San Francisco.

I'm not surprised at what Vernon has been able to accomplish-- he was always a person to shoot high and persevere.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


On the ocean

Last weekend, I went down to Port Aransas, Texas to meet up with Henry Wright and Dr. Charles McDaniel to do some fishing. It was an epic trip! We went about 30 miles offshore into the Gulf of Mexico, and the fish were biting.

I do want to explain one thing about the photo above. You'll notice that there eight kingfish (King Mackerel) and one severed fish head. As you might imagine, there is a good story there.

We were fishing for Wahoo early in the morning--just after dawn-- and I got a big one on my line. It took a huge first run, and then I fought him for a while. Finally, as it got close to the boat, it was clear that it was big-- at least four feet long.

Just then, a shark appeared and ate it. Just chomped off the whole thing behind the head in a bloody, thrashing mess. I reeled in the head (which still had my hook in it) and that was that.

There is often great violence beneath calm waters.

Monday, October 28, 2019


The World Series

So... who cares about the World Series? IPLawGuy, as he should. He was a season ticket holder for the Nationals from the beginning, and now they are in the tied-up World Series with Houston. Here is his haiku:

Positive vibes in
Metro Washington unites
people. A good thing!

My dad was on board, too. Here was his:

If they live up to
Their name the Senators won’t
Begin to play ball.

And, as usual, Jill Scoggins was batting clean-up:

I call Altuve
“My Munchkin”: Short on stature
but strong and cute. [SWOON]

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