Friday, November 24, 2017


Haiku Friday: The Things We Ate

I am a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, but I know that not everyone is. Whether it be turkey or pasta, I hope you ate with gusto and love yesterday.

For me, Thanksgiving is marked not just by the food but by the drinks. When I was a kid there wasn't room in the fridge for everything, and one of my jobs would be to take things out and bring them back: tall bottles of wine, jugs of cider, cans of soda, and squat bottles of beer. I loved dashing from the warm and loud house out into the cold and still night and back.

Let's haiku about what we ate and drank, yesterday and in the past. Here, I will go first.

The labels, magic:
Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Graves;
All so far away.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017



Where I live, this time of year is marked by newly bare branches and wisps of snow. I went out to the store last night, and walking into a warm bakery or grocery meant slipping into a cozy hive of people preparing happily for what is to come.

And I am thankful. More than usual, but less than I should be.

Yesterday, after a real scare in September, my dad pulled through his hip replacement without a hitch. He now has a new hip made of titanium, with polymer linings. It will be a good thing for his body and his mind (and my mom's sanity, I suspect). It's a good thing for us all; the world needs him here with us.

And there is so much more to be thankful for, too. I am thankful for you all, for one thing. There are times that my week gets overwhelming and when I get to Friday I am struggling. But then I look on the blog and see some haiku, stories of love and life; that gets me through. 

Enjoy this day. I know that I will, with a full heart.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


What's the deal with people like Wes Goodman?

The Wes Goodman story, as told by The Independent:

An Ohio lawmaker who routinely touted his Christian faith and anti-LGBT views has resigned after being caught having sex with a man in his office.
Wes Goodman, who is the Republican state legislator for Ohio, is married to a woman who is assistant director of an annual anti-abortion rally known as March for Life.
The right-wing legislator, who pushed “family values”, was reportedly witnessed having sex with a man inside his office who was not employed by the legislator.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the observer told Ohio House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe what had happened on Tuesday afternoon. Mr Dittoe responded by telling House Speaker Republican Cliff Rosenberger who in turn met with Mr Goodman. 
The 33-year-old, who has been branded the “conscience of the conservative movement”, resigned for “inappropriate conduct” shortly after the meeting took place.
Mr Goodman, whose Twitter biography describes him as “Christian. American. Conservative. Republican. Husband to @Beth1027”, has regularly claimed "natural marriage" occurs between a man and a woman. 
"Healthy, vibrant, thriving, values-driven families are the source of Ohio's proud history and the key to Ohio's future greatness,” reads his campaign website which has now been taken offline.
There is something deeply sad about this story. Goodman obviously was so deeply living a lie that he had to exaggerate his opposition to... well, himself.  
This kind of hypocrisy is found in both parties, and among everyone at some level, of course. But between these episodes and the (probably more important) continuing revelations about sexual abuse by powerful men, it seems like our country has a major problem with sex. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Writing and writing...

On Sunday, the Waco Trib ran a piece I wrote about the Mueller investigation, which is fascinating to watch from outside. Here is part of what I said:

The Mueller team is like a clock: it offers simple information to the public, but a lot of whirring gears and intricate machinery is hidden from view. While we don’t know much about these inner workings, there is much to consider from what we can see on the outside.

Then my dad has this reflection for Thanksgiving. I hope that you will read that, too.

Monday, November 20, 2017



Some great haiku last week, guys!

This one from Jill Scoggins made me remember when we were both in Waco, and she was one of those new friends to me:

They are new-but-like-
old friends who have enveloped
me deep in their hearts.

But really, you should read them all...

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Pray with me

My dad is going in for surgery this Wednesday. It's just a "routine" hip replacement, that would be a lot more routine if last time they did tried he hadn't pretty much died and had to be resuscitated. (He described that a little here on his blog:

This past week I seemingly experienced the completion of my life cycle and then was given a chance to start a new one. I don”t know why.

I was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery this past Wednesday. Unfortunately I went into anaphylactic shock and my body shut down completely. I was aware that life was passing out of me. Through a ton of good luck and good emergency medical help my heart and lungs were revived after five minutes, and I miraculously survived. 

Those of you who know me well know that I am not big on public prayer. I take Jesus at his word that maybe it is best done in a closet, to avoid the temptation of doing it for show. There is a good reason I don't get invited to a lot of prayer breakfasts.

There is a time to pray, though. And this is one of them.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Because I wonder...

What is the opposite of being jammed into a coach seat for a flight?

Friday, November 17, 2017


Haiku Friday: Giving thanks

I love this time of year, and the holiday we get next week. Thanksgiving. The name says it all, huh? So, let's give thanks haiku-style today (and maybe again next week-- if you are like me, you owe a lot of folks some thanks).

Here, I will go first:

Old friends, still are there
The years add luster and warmth
Thanks for then and now.

[that is Craig A in the upper right corner; I am in the second row, second from the left]

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe...

Yes, I know, the tax bill is complicated and possibly evil, and Senators are starting to back away from it. And, yes, I know, the Roy Moore situation is just getting creepier all the time. Yet, there are other things going on in the world, and one of them is particularly important. One of the world's longest-ruling and controversial leaders is apparently reaching the end of the line.

Zimbabwe is a complicated place. From 1923 until 1965, it was a British colony known as "Southern Rhodesia." In 1965, the predominately white government (in an overwhelmingly black nation) declared independence from Britain, and from 1965 until 1980, the white government was in power, despite worldwide condemnation and sanctions. Robert Mugabe was one of the leaders of the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU), which eventually won majority control for the country.

At that point, Mugabe was a legit success. He first became Prime Minister and then President. As a sometimes-Marxist, he was deeply unpopular with the United States.

And now, after 37 years of ruling Zimbabwe, it looks like the military is taking down Robert Mugabe.  The problem, of course, is that the freedom fighter became the self-enricher.  When the economy tanked, he turned to vilifying gay men, calling them "worse than dogs and pigs." By 2009, about 75% of the population relied on food aid, and unemployment rose over 80%. Meanwhile, his own fortune soared.

Through it all, he did win contested elections, even though many of those were marred by intimidation.  

It's complicated, but it looks like change is on the way.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Sports Update!

It's been kind of a weird college football season. Let's review who is having a great season and who really isn't.

Having a great season:

Alabama: Undefeated. Ranked #1. Looking good doing it. Still have to play Auburn and Georgia. Oh, and Mercer. Who scheduled that?

Wisconsin: Also undefeated. Sadly, they had a weak schedule. Still have to play Michigan and in the Big 10 title game.

Yale: Already won at least a share of the Ivy League for the first time in a while. Can win it outright when Harvard visits for The Game this weekend.

Not really having a great season:

Baylor: Only one win, over the team now formally known as Lowly Kansas. They lost to some baaaaad teams this year, including Duke and USTA. Oh, and Liberty, which is a so-so team in Div. I-AA. Ouch.

Kansas: See above.

William and Mary:  2-8, including loses to some pretty bad teams, like Towson State.

Of course, there are a lot of teams in the middle-- Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College-- that are doing ok but not great. My prediction for the championship: Wisconsin and Alabama. Book it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Re Roy Moore

What does it take to get rid of a Republican candidate in deep-red Alabama? It appears that we are on the verge of finding out.

There is a lot not to like about Roy Moore. A LOT.  Like (at age 32) picking up a 14-year-old girl while in the courthouse while her Mom was in a custody hearing. Then molesting her.

Now the New Yorker has a story that raises the gross-out value to a new high:

This past weekend, I spoke or messaged with more than a dozen people—including a major political figure in the state—who told me that they had heard, over the years, that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since. These people include five members of the local legal community, two cops who worked in the town, several people who hung out at the mall in the early eighties, and a number of former mall employees. (A request for comment from the Moore campaign was not answered.) Several of them asked that I leave their names out of this piece. The stories that they say they’ve heard for years have been swirling online in the days since the Post published its report. “Sources tell me Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall and the YMCA for his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls,” the independent Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson wrote on his Web site on Sunday. (Wilson declined to divulge his sources.) Teresa Jones, a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in the early eighties, told CNN last week that “it was common knowledge that Roy dated high-school girls.” Jones told me that she couldn’t confirm the alleged mall banning, but said, “It’s a rumor I’ve heard for years.”

It's disappointing that the New Yorker piece is rooted in part in rumor. The story about child molestation is not rooted in rumor, though.

What does it take?

Monday, November 13, 2017


The London Game

Look, I have known Christine a long time. A looooong time. Like, nearly half a century.  When we moved in down the street from her family, cars did not have seat belts. People on my street had party line phones (where you share a phone number with your neighbors). It was so long ago that color TV was still a big deal.

Anyways, her haiku last week has me stumped:

Played with Pammie J
In her backyard one summer
The London Game.

I know who Pammie J is. But I have no idea whatsoever what "The London Game" might be...

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Addition by Subtraction

As I have mentioned here before, a lot of my time over the last year has been spent putting together a new casebook for first year criminal law students called "Contemporary Criminal Law." I sent it off to West Publishing yesterday-- all 1026 pages of it-- and there was real satisfaction in pushing that "send" button.

Last week, I wrote about how this project pushed me towards a spiritual state of aloneness that I really hadn't given much thought to before.  Today I want to talk about another aspect of the project that was a surprise, and a good one.

The trick to writing a good casebook, in part, is excerpting good opinions that illustrate the point you are trying to make. One thing I discovered as I read thousands of court opinions was an incredible range of writing ability on the federal bench. There are some terrible writers, and some fantastic ones. Of course, much of the writing is done by 20-something law clerks (I was one) whose previous experience was editing long turgid law review articles. The influence of bad academic writing on bad judicial writing became clear pretty quickly, as did the fact that some judges really transcend that challenge. I returned to the same judges multiple times, because their work was wonderful.

Once you have spotted a good opinion, though, the challenge turns to chopping it up. You rarely can afford the space to include an entire opinion. I found myself time and again spending hours on a single opinion, trying to reduce it to its essence and the facts that made it compelling.

When I did that well (and sometimes I was better than others) it was like chiseling a gem to a shape that seems to create light. After a while, it came to feel like an art. As I chipped away words to find the shape of a tragedy (and all of criminal law is tragedy), it reminded me of the way my dad seems to draw a person onto the canvas out of the ether.

Jesus did talk a lot more about what we need to give up than what we need to keep. I have often thought of that only in terms of sacrifice and humility-- cutting away wealth and pride-- but there is something more as well.

Sometimes we must carve away to reveal truth-- the noise, the distractions, the negativity. There is a spiritual value in that, of course, and the season for it begins in just a few weeks. I love Advent. It is coming at just the right time this year.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Mistrial in Waco

After 23 days of trial and 14 hours of jury deliberation, a mistrial was declared in the Waco trial of Jacob Carrizal, the first of 154 people indicted in the 2015 Twin Peaks shoot-out to go to trial.  The Waco Tribune-Herald has a full report. The jury was deadlocked, and it appears that there were no more than six jurors supporting conviction. The process of prosecuting these cases has already cost nearly $1,000,000.

The DA threw everything he had into this one. It will be fascinating to see what happens next...

Friday, November 10, 2017


Haiku Friday: Board Games!

With the holidays coming up, and all of the family gatherings that come with them, some of us start to think about board games. After all, it's the one thing that can keep some people from talking about politics! I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm totally intrigued by the new Harry Potter version of Clue, which combines two things I'm lukewarm about but somehow makes so much sense I am dying to see it.

So let's haiku about board games this week: The good games, the bad ones, the people who cheat, the pieces that got lost. C'mon... I know you have a story.

Here, I will go first:

We asked for "Blarf"
Throw cards around and yell "Blarf!!"
Loud, confusing, great.

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

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Political Mayhem Thursday: A Commitment to Ghosts

This week I was on a plane sitting next to a guy in a Liberty University sweatshirt. He was coming back from a hunting trip, and he was a talker.

I was reading the paper. He looked over my shoulder (at no story in particular) and said: "It's just terrible, all the crime. I can't believe how bad it's gotten."

Perhaps, I thought, he was referring to the horrible church shooting in Texas, but he assured me it wasn't that when I asked if that was what he was talking about. "I just mean the robberies and murders and rapes. It's out of control." (This is kind of a Fox News trope).

It was a pretty typical comment these days, but it is also completely wrong.  Even with a recent slight uptick in some areas, crime is much lower than it was ten and fifteen years ago. Here is a Gallup chart comparing the actual violent crime rate (bottom line) with what people think the crime rate is (upper line):

So, I told the guy that--I explained that I was a person who studies crime for a living, and that the crime rate had gone down sharply in the past few decades.

He didn't quite... take it in. Instead, he went on to explain the crime rate he was imagining: "It's because of the breakdown in the family. You've got these kids, they have one parent or no parent, and what do you expect?"

I was a little baffled, but I went back to what I knew-- that the crime rate actually was getting better, not worse. There was no crime epidemic to explain.  He kind of nodded, and went back to doing something on an iPad.

Then, about ten minutes later, he leaned over: "But really, it's the fact there is no dads. That's why we are getting all these murders."

I wish this were an isolated incident, but it isn't. It seems that crime and immigration are two "problems" that are politically propping up an entire political party right now. But... how much longer does that work, with the Republicans in power? Will they be able to come up with a new playbook?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Thanksgiving approaches

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Mostly, I love the idea behind it, and the fact that it is simply about a spiritual value, nothing more and nothing less. I love the time of year, too, that turn from fall to winter when the trees are bare and the ground shivers. The sky can be grey, but then the clouds break and there is no sun like November sun. In Minnesota, we get big fat snowflakes that drift this way and that, looking for exactly the right place to land on the bed of leaves. I refuse to race past all of this bounty to Christmas, because there is too much to enjoy about what there is right now. The next holiday can wait its turn, after Thanksgiving and Advent, thank you.

About now, I always begin thinking about what to be thankful for. It's easy to come up with that list, too-- I have an abundance, unearned.

As I get older, too, I realize how important this is. As I think about that, about gratitude, it turns me away from so much that is negative. You can't compile a gratitude list and not smile now and then. It makes me want to call people, to hold them close, to thank them (and sometimes I do, so don't be scared!).

It's a good thing that is coming, this holiday.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


The Son of a Son

I am the son of an artist who is the son of two artists. I grew up in a house full of paint  and clay and lenses and all sorts of things that get made into images. In his blog this week, my dad talks about how he grew up with the same thing:

I grew up with two artists as parents. Things in our house were carefully placed  to look their very best. Furniture and eating utensils were moved around until they looked just right. I lived in a well designed world. It was important to my parents how things related to the space and objects around them. Snowy boots were not invited into the house and metal toys were not allowed onto the wood floors. This wasn’t always the easiest place for a naturally messy boy to grow up. Also in our home there was controlled clutter. My world included bookcases filled with art books and I could spend time in my father’s areas in the house reserved for working on both his sensible and his silly creations. There was both good design and a little chaos in my dad’s studio, his darkroom  and his basement work room. These were my favorite places and I am still happiest when I am in the midst of a creative project.  Being surrounded by art as a child was a gift.

It's a fascinating story (and I love the old sketches). Check out the whole thing here.

Monday, November 06, 2017


That's so Minnesota!

I'm talking, of course, about the Spanish Medievalist's excellent haiku:

Argh, I’m a pirate,
But wait! It is snowing tons,
Pirate with parka.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Solitude

This year has included a lot of solitude. I am finishing up a first-year Crim Law casebook (Contemporary Criminal Law, West Publishing, 2018), and the thing is up around 1,000 pages and over 400,000 words.  It is due to the publisher this coming Friday, and it is going to be done on time (I'm just finishing up some fine-tuning at this point). That all is good-- and I really do think this is going to be a good and worthwhile book.

To get it done, I have had to spend a lot of alone in my office reading and writing. Some days, I didn't interact with anyone else during the work day. My office was a little monastery. At lunch I would walk alone, needing to keep the strand of thought in my head so I could go back in and continue a coherent line. It was like a bubble I could carry with me; I would see people but was invisible as I passed the other way. A city is a good place to be alone.

I don't know that I have had that kind of solitude before in my life. I'm an introvert anyways, but this was a new level of aloneness and focus.

Aloneness is something that Jesus sought sometimes. He retreated to the wilderness for 40 days (much more aloneness than I dealt with!) and was tempted during his solitude (I only had to resist the temptation of Facebook).  At other times, too, he withdrew. There was something important in that.

There is a sense in our society that if you are alone, there must be something wrong. I'm not sure that is healthy. Aloneness can be necessary, and a sense of comfort with aloneness can be a gift (and hard to obtain). Of course, sometimes there is something wrong when people withdraw, and we need to pay attention to that. But... aloneness is not necessarily a failing.

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