Thursday, May 26, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Clinton Emails Loom Larger

Just as Hillary Clinton appears to be the presumptive nominee, the issue regarding her use of a private email server as Secretary of State is back in the news-- an for good reason.

Yesterday, the State Department's Inspector General-- an Obama hire and employee-- issued his report on the issue. Two clear findings were that (1) Clinton did not have authorization to use the server and (2) if she had sought such authorization, it would have been denied.

According to the New York Times:

The report, delivered to members of Congress, undermined some of Mrs. Clinton’s previous statements defending her use of the server and handed her Republican critics, including the party’s presumptive nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, new fodder to attack her just as she closes in on the Democratic nomination.

The inspector general found that Mrs. Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with department officials but that, contrary to her claims that the department “allowed” the arrangement, there was “no evidence” she had requested or received approval for it.

And while other senior officials had used personal email accounts for official business, including Colin Powell when he was secretary, the rules made clear by the time she became the nation’s top diplomat that using a private server for official business was neither allowed nor encouraged because of “significant security risks.”

And if that is what the pro-Clinton Times is saying, you can imagine what more conservative media outlets are making of this.

As I have said before, this is a serious issue, and a serious failing. A desire for secrecy that is so strong it leads to this kind of behavior is a real negative in a prospective president.  Clinton's attempts to laugh it off or "spin" it by pointing fingers elsewhere just makes things worse. She may have to say it a thousand times, but she just needs to say it was a mistake, and a serious one, that won't be repeated.

Do you think it matters?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Baylor in Turmoil (?)

Rumors are raging at Baylor, after a University of Texas-affiliated blogger had reported that Baylor's board of Regents met on Tuesday morning and voted to fire President Ken Starr. Other news sources quickly picked up on the story,  Baylor's official word was that nothing was being announced right now.

I learned long ago not to jump to conclusions on partial information. I really don't know what is going on, or what basis there would be for such an action. At the least, though, this is clearly a time of tumult for Baylor, created by a very real and important issue-- the efforts (or lack of effort) by the university to address the problem of rape on campus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Chris Clark, Bear and Tommie

One of the graduates I will really miss is Chris Clark. He came to St. Thomas from Baylor, where he earned his undergrad degree. When he came to visit the school I met with him, and urged him to come. It was a leap-- he was and is a true Texan, and Minnesota is a stretch in terms of weather and culture.

He did it though, and St. Thomas was deeply blessed to have him. Because he was not a criminal law guy, he was not in my classes. Still, I often heard about him from others, many of whom did not know our connection. They always talked about him as being special, gifted in mind and spirit. I was taken with him mindfulness, too, and his gently soul. When I ran into him in the hall, no matter how busy I was, I couldn't help but detour and visit for a while, and I never regretted it.

I'm thankful for many of our students, and Chris is one of them. He will be missed.

Monday, May 23, 2016


You go, car people!

Wow, what great haiku last week! I loved Amy's car story:

"Things will be just fine,"
Said Peter Lawford, salesman
At Mini dealer.

Made my dream come true,
Silver Mini with black stripes,
Oh, that rev-up sound!

And Mitch Gordon's rang true as well:

An orange Gremlin
from 1974 --
a dream that won't die.

And who would win between that Gremlin and the Medievalist?

'71 Vega,
Sure Chevy made better cars,
but mine was lime green.

MKS was wistful (and shared a dream with Christine, I think):

VW bug
Classic red convertible
Iconic and cool.

While JR sounds a little down:

I owned my dream car.
The one before I had to
buy a minivan.

We had lots of Saab enthusiasts (weird, given that it went out of business), and then there is IPLawGuy:

'70 Hemi
Convertible please.

And finally, someone who seems to have been thinking about this for a while:

Ford Focus RS
All 350 horsepower
Going to all four

In that Amazing
Nitrous Blue coat from my dreams
And the wing in back

Look to '92
For second place in my dreams
The Escort RS

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Looking at politics with an open heart

I have a piece in today's Waco Tribune Herald that will probably make some people (everyone) angry. In it, I put forward positives about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton without even including a "but..." that then explains how one or the other is actually like Hitler.

Are both of the candidates egotistical, ruled by political urges, and devoted to positions with which I disagree. Well, yes. But that is who we usually are going to have running for public office, and none of that means that they are evil.

I get really discouraged when I read or hear an analysis arguing that what Republicans or Democrats "really want" is to get rid of freedom, or destroy our institutions of democracy, or impoverish the country. Of course they don't "want" that. You may think that their ideas would lead to that, but they disagree with that perspective and think their ideas will lead to more freedom, a stronger democracy, and prosperity.

The divisions in our society are real and troubling. One cause is the political demonization of those who oppose our party or position. We can disagree without seeing evil intent in those who oppose us.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Smart people, good hearts, great idea

Some of you know that I am a real admirer of the work that Dan Collison and his staff are doing at First Covenant Church here in Minneapolis (I also get to preach there about twice a year, most recently last month). 

The church is across the street from the new football stadium, and they are putting their property to good use, as explained in an article in yesterday's Star Tribune:

The city in recent years has seen many new luxury apartments pop up, along with a few affordable housing projects in which rents are subsidized. But new housing options for the moderate-income worker — those who earn too much to qualify for a subsidy yet not enough to pay for high rents — have been left out of the downtown residential boom.

Ryan [Companies, a developer], First Covenant Church and Community Housing Development Corp. a year ago outlined a rough vision for a six-story apartment building across 6th Street S. from the new Vikings stadium. This week, they submitted to the city a near-final plan for the $38 million project, which was designed by UrbanWorks Architecture.

The financing model is key to the project. Workforce housing, or that which is accessible to people making 50 to 60 percent of the area median income, is difficult to execute. Developers need to make money on a project and there are two ways to do that typically: build market-rate apartments that fetch rents high enough to pay back the cost of construction or build units for low-income earners that are eligible for government subsidies.

But Ryan, First Covenant and CHDC found a way to make the math work for their project, one that takes the Olympics for inspiration. They have an unnamed private partner with a nice budget for housing and operational space during the Super Bowl festivities that is close to committing to the project.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Haiku Friday: Dream car

Summer is for road trips, and that makes me think of my dream car. Of course, that changes from week to week. And no, a 1985 El Camino (pictured above) has never been my dream car, though it is pretty distinctive.

So, let's haiku about that this week. It can be about the car you desire now, or the one you wanted when you were 16. Or even one you actually owned, and miss.

Here, I will go first:

Chevy S-10 Truck
Spot Davis had a classic
I lov'd to "borrow."

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016


In tomorrow's Baltimore Sun...

You will find a piece Nkechi Taifa and I wrote about clemency. Or, if you don't live in Baltimore, you can just read it here.


Political Mayhem Thursday: Who would you have run as a third candidate?

Now that we can be fairly confident that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the major-party candidates for President this year, it is fair to say that many people won't be happy with the choices. 

All right, then... so who else? I have listed below some viable third-party candidates. Feel free to discuss one of these, or discuss others. Notably, most of those listed below have said they aren't interested in such a run, but let's just figure that we could 

Bernie Sanders
Ted Cruz
Michael Boomberg
John Kasich
Mitch Daniels
Jim DeMint

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Criminal law question #14

I am in the middle of a grading haze-- there is something about it that just kills my brain for almost anything else.  Of course, as many of you know I use a Sorting Hat to do a lot of the grading, which makes the whole process easier.

Writing the tests is actually kind of fun and challenging. They usually feature the same cast of characters: Rink Allegro (star of action movie "Explodar 4: The Key to Explodar City"), Glorbin Dandyport (who is usually an FBI agent of uneven abilities), and Larry Bates (who often appears as the neighbor or accomplice of Glorbin Dandyport).

For the first-year Criminal Law class, the test is a mix of multiple choice and essay questions. Here is a sample multiple choice question. Do you know the answer? (in the test, we used Minnesota law, but you can apply the law of your own state):

Bob McBurger is very curious about his neighbors, and would like to see them when they are asleep. He knows they leave their door unlocked, so one night he sneaks into their house, just to peek at them. He sees them, in their pajamas, sound asleep. He then sneaks back downstairs. On the way out, he notices that they have several very nice guns in a rack by the door. He didn’t know about that! He takes them, and brings them home. He later sells them to his buddy Russ. What is the most serious crime he has committed?

A) Theft
B) Burglary
C) Robbery
D) Armed Robbery
E) “Super” Armed Robbery

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Bob Darden Drives and Talks Waco

I love love love this video by the Dallas Morning News, showing my friend and writing hero Bob Darden driving around Waco and talking about its history:

The surprising thing is what goes unsaid: in 100 or 200 or 300 years, what will be most significant about Waco won't be football or Ken Starr or a TV show about houses. It will be the fact that it was there that Bob Darden saved the legacy of black gospel music, a purely American art form that has influenced music around the world.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Family legends....

Wow! You all have some interesting families!

I liked this haiku from Jill Scoggins:

Grandma's great-grandma
was "hunnert percent In'dun"
Or so they told us.

And wondered about this one from Craig A:

Astronomer Hall (Asaph),
Discovered Phobos, moon of
Mars. Had nice beard!

But the farmer brought the most intriguing story in:

Grandmother Nolley
birthed son in the wee hours, picked
cotton after noon.

And don't go to visit Seraphim's relatives:

My grandfather said
He had gators in attic.
Slept one eye open!

And Megan Willome had a great little story, and perhaps the saddest:

That violin, they
say, a Stradivarius.
Now it's long, long gone.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Graduation, 2016

Yeah, it was as bittersweet as ever.

Here I am with Baylor Bear Chris Clark:

And with Connor Cremens:

And Gustavo Ortiz:

And with my colleague and friend, Nekima Levy-Pounds:


Saturday, May 14, 2016


It's graduation day!

And who knows who will show up? I sure hope it is not that rabbit-- it kind of gives me the creeps.

Anyways, I'm looking forwards to it. Since the 3L's voted me the "professor of the year," I get to do the hooding. Which, when I do it, is mostly clumsily knocking off hats. Still, I'm better than that rabbit.

I promise to post photos tomorrow...

Friday, May 13, 2016


Haiku Friday: Family Legends

Every family has them: those old stories that might be true... and might not be. Yet they continue on as legend from one generation to the next.  

Let's haiku about those this week. Here, I will go first:

Sir William Osler
Are we related or not?
It's guess-ology.

Now it is your turn! Just put your family legend into the 5/7/5 syllable format, and have some fun!

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Both parties need to clearly see how Trump won the nomination

Some Republicans are making their peace with Donald Trump as the party's standard-bearer. Others… well, not so much. They are thinking about third party candidates, vowing not to go to the Convention, and muttering about lost causes.

Meanwhile, Democrats seem to think they have this thing all sewn up, and are making inquiries about positions in the next Clinton administration.

I don't understand either group. Were they watching the primaries we just went through?

First of all, Trump was not a fluke. He faced a large and talented crowd of 16 primary opponents that included successful governors, accomplished senators, scions of business and medicine, and also Ted Cruz. Look, there were some fascinating people in that group; I was on record that I thought it was a deep bench. But Trump beat them all. Republican voters in primaries and caucuses liked him best. So how is it a tragedy that he won?  Were 11 million Republican voters wrong?

The Republicans who are announcing their disgust at this outcome are distancing themselves from that plurality of Republican voters, a group that is mad. And they are mad in part because Republicans convinced them to be mad-- at Obama, at the economy, at government. So, yeah, now they are mad. And Trump went right to that. Yes, he made xenophobic appeals and overstated the threat of immigration-- but that has been a characteristic of many Republican candidates (and some Democrats) for decades. In fact, the need to address that tendency within the Republican Party was part of the conclusion in the RNC's "post-mortem" in the wake of the 2012 loss to Obama.  It's like the Frankenstein monster-- they are scared of what they have created.

And as for the Democrats…

A year ago, no one except Donald J. Trump thought Trump could win the nomination. They were all wrong. Isn't that a pretty good warning not to think this thing is in the bag?

Here is what can go wrong for the over-confident Democrats (aside from an indictment of Hillary Clinton, which I think is a possibility):

First of all, those mad Republicans have a lot in common with the mad Democrats who have supported Bernie Sanders in droves. At base, mad Democrats AND mad Republicans throng to someone who blames someone else (immigrants/banks) for their problems. In the general election there will be one candidate-- Trump-- who will speak to them and for them.  That's a problem for Clinton.

Moreover, both Sanders and Trump talked about about a concrete, very real issue in the same way: foreign trade. They both argued that deals like NAFTA took away American jobs. (Economists say they are right, too, though such trade deals are just one of many factors).  That plays well in states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida-- key swing states. In some very important ways, Clinton/Jeb Bush/wealthy donors on both sides vs. Trump/Sanders/working class America is a cleavage point.

There is a lot left to happen, and a lot on the line.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


US v. NC

The U.S. sued North Carolina, and North Carolina sued the U.S. over North Carolina's new law on LGBT rights.

I gotta say, the U.S. had the better speech announcing their suit. Loretta Lynch really meant it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Conservatives and the Academy

There was a fascinating piece in the NY Times last weekend by Nicholas Kristof titled "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance." There, Kristof discusses the bare fact that those who talk about "diversity" rarely mean diversity of political viewpoint, and the lack of conservatives in some part of the academy.

I am fortunate to work at a place that quite intentionally has that kind of diversity. I have written before about how that is good for our students and for me.  Especially in law, we need to expose our students to different viewpoints given that our field is so directly linked to politics.

Yet, I don't think that the failure to seek out political diversity is a reason to give up on other forms of diversity. Being black is not the same as being liberal; that experience includes things (such as being the object of discrimination) that whites-- liberal or conservative-- do not experience in the same way.  Rather, they are two separate and worthwhile types of diversity, that should be sought within the academy both within the faculty and the student body.

Monday, May 09, 2016


Haiku of Trump

I can't even pick-- there was lots of great work on the topic.  Christine seemed especially motivated (and skilled) last week, among others.

Yesterday, I got to go watch Joy Tull and her teammates on the Chicago North Shore rugby club play here in Minneapolis. What a sport! It's pretty fascinating, and Joy is really good at it.  It was a blast to see it.

Speaking of Trump, I think that this election cycle will be a lot like rugby. There will be a scrum where no one sees the ball, and a lot of yelling, while no one on the sideline will really know what the score is.

Sunday, May 08, 2016


In today's Waco Trib...

... I have a little piece on narcotics reform, including a plea to Rep. Bill Flores.


Sunday Reflection: Water and dust

I found myself this week deep in the San Joaquin Valley of California, an area between the coastal range and the Sierra Nevada. It is mostly an agricultural area, growing most of America's almonds, pistachios, and raisins.

It's a weird place though. I was mostly in almond territory, and it's an unusual kind of agriculture. The trees are planted in rows, hundreds of acres, surrounded by brown and dry high desert. The agriculture is only possible by using huge amounts of water, which is a precious commodity as the drought in California stretches into another year (despite some improvements in parts of the state this year). The fight over water is everywhere in the Valley-- on signs by the road and the words of angry people on the radio.  The agricultural interests want to draw more water from the rivers, and are meeting resistance from environmentalists.

All the talk of water fascinated me. In Minnesota, it is all around us, unbidden. You can't go ten blocks without running into a lake, and rivers go through people's backyards. We don't talk about it; it's just there.

Jesus lived in a desert culture, and he talked about water a lot. When he sees the woman at the well, he talks to her about water. Baptism becomes a part of Christianity, and his first apostles are fisherman.

Such a simple thing, and so precious, necessary to thrive. To understand how precious it is, though, you have to go to where it is dry and walk there for a while.

Saturday, May 07, 2016


A word about Mom

I'm a lucky guy in many ways, but one of them is to have Phyllis Osler as my mom. She is a remarkable person, and recently I was reflecting on some of the things she gave me:

1) She taught me to be comfortable with smart women, rather than intimidated or bossy.  She taught this by example; I grew up with a mom who read constantly, knew about a wide range of issues, and loved to discuss things ranging from theology to science. I learned how to listen to and interact with a smart, confident woman, and in 2016 that is an important thing to know.

2)  She taught me to love books. She reads constantly, and talks about what she reads. So many times she has added to what I thought I knew about a book, or recommended something wonderful to read.

3)  She taught me, too, how to let things go. It is one of her great traits-- the art of moving on when something goes wrong.

4) She taught me not to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. I remember once talking about the downfall of a rival, and she was appalled. Once I thought about it, I was too.  

5)  Like my dad, she has the gift of seeing beauty everywhere, in the smallest or most unlikely spaces. That is a secret to happiness, I think, and balance.  

There is more, of course...


Amazing work by Sari Horwitz

Today's Washington Post features a remarkable and comprehensive piece by Sari Horwitz, outlining the problems with the federal clemency process and where things stand.  Sari (who has won three Pulitzers) has done consistently strong work examining the administration's claim that things are going well. Previous pieces have featured clemency petitioners like my pro bono client Weldon Angelos.

I love that she breaks down the current structure, and includes two of my ideas for reform of the system. People complain about being quoted inaccurately in the media, but that has not been a problem for me-- journalists like Sari always seem to report with concision and accuracy what I say and think, and in context. Any stupidity revealed is usually mine.

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