Saturday, August 18, 2018


Cage homes of Hong Kong

So if you think your apartment is small, check this out! Hong Kong has the highest housing prices in the world, and it isn't because of a lack of land-- it is because of tax policy.

It fascinates me that some many things come back to the way that taxes can incentivize things in a way that physically shape our world.

Friday, August 17, 2018


Haiku Friday: The Queen of Soul

I saw Aretha Franklin once, but it was memorable. It was 1986; I was 23 years old.  I read she was making a special for Showtime at the Music Hall in Detroit, and headed over there. Clarence Clemens, from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band was there, and so was Aretha's sister Erma, who had a deep, rich voice. I'm sorry I did not see her again, and now she is gone.

She, like me and Ron Fournier and Keith Ellison and a bunch of other people who left and went back (and left and went back), was from Detroit, and very much of it.  Just this past Sunday, I wrote about driving down Jefferson, singing along to "Say a Little Prayer." I loved the songs where it was easier to hear the church in it.

One of my favorite songs ever was by Aretha's older sister Erma (she died in 2002), who filmed this at the Soup Kitchen bar in Detroit:

With both Franklin sisters (and a third sister, Carolyn), the story always started in the church their father C.L. Franklin (a legend in his own right) pastored, New Bethel in Detroit. In the 1950's, James Cleveland was the organist. It's not surprising they filled up 2,500 seats! Here is James Cleveland:

What comes next? I don't know. But I hope there is singing.

Let's Haiku about Aretha Franklin this morning. Here, I will go first:

Many times in church
Woman stepped up to sing
My hope: Aretha.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 formula and make it good!

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Political Mayhem Thursday: Drugs and Truth in New Haven

Yesterday, 76 people overdosed on the New Haven Green.

There is a lot going on with that story that I would like to unpack.

First, some news stories made it sound like this occurred in some remote park, with people hiding in the woods. That's very wrong-- the New Haven Green is actually a large open space right in the middle of the city, bordered two sides by Yale and on a third by one of the major shopping streets in the city. Two major bus stops are on the Green. You can sit on a bench and literally see the entire thing. It is not remote or hidden.

Second, it appears that what happened here is that someone sold a lot of people bad drugs-- probably synthetic marijuana-- and they used it right there where they bought it. What this did was reveal how many people on that one day were using drugs in that small area (and probably not all of them-- just the ones who bought from that one guy). It's as if pop-up bubbles appeared over the residents of a defined space identifying them as people using narcotics at that moment... and there were a staggering number of pop-up bubbles.

And that brings me to the third, and most important thing: The problem with narcotics in America has a lot more to do with narcotics use than it does with narcotics trafficking. We are a huge consumer of narcotics: in fact, with 5% of the world's population, we use 25% of the illegal narcotics, and consume more illegal narcotics per capita than any other nation. We spend 10 times more on narcotics than we do on going to movies!  The myth is that the trafficking creates the use-- that is, that "pushers" get people addicted. That's ridiculous. There are sellers because there is demand for the narcotics, and the law of markets tells us that so long as there is demand, there will be supply.

People who think that most drug users were drawn into it by drug sellers have not spent much time around either. While, certainly, there are people who first tried drugs because a seller talked them into it, in most instances people try drugs because a friend or a lover talked them into it, or they wanted to in the first place, or because they couldn't get a prescription medication anymore.

Think of it this way: In the real world, do you think drug sellers are going around trying to find buyers, or the buyers are more often trying to find the sellers? It's the latter.

Americans use too many recreational drugs, and there is a cost to that. Some drugs are harmful and some are not so harmful. If we can stop pretending that we can restrict demand simply by temporarily affecting supply, perhaps we can focus on lessening narcotic use, encouraging harm reduction, and making people's lives better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Shakespeare and Clemency

I am spending this week finishing a new law review article, and am loving the chance to delve into something that makes my mind race. Part of it examines clemency themes in Shakespeare's plays. I know that seems esoteric, but many of the Founding Fathers actually were huge Shakespeare fans-- Jefferson and Adams took a BFF trip to the Bard's boyhood home at Stratford-on-Avon, and Washington attended a performance of The Tempest during the Constitutional Convention. It goes to my central point, which is that the framers intended the pardon power to be an expression of the president's individual nature. It is the soul part of the Constitution, as much of the heart as the mind.

If nothing else, I found moments of great meaning. Measure for Measure, it turns out, is largely about the tension between justice and mercy, and the same theme crops up again and again in his other plays. Here are two passages I really loved.

First, from The Merchant of Venice:

--> The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of Kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s 

When mercy seasons justice.
I love that line-- that clemency is "enthroned in the hearts of kings."

And then there is my favorite, near the end of The Tempest (after Prospero, speaking here, has resolved to free the captives of his magic and spare their lives):

--> Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury 

Do I take part: the rare action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel:
My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore, 

And they shall be themselves.
That last line just nails it: that a principled grant of mercy, clemency, can make someone whole, to be themselves as they should be and can be.

How lucky am I , that this is my work?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Wrong about Omarosa

Yesterday morning I woke up and sent out a tweet saying "What's not important: The fight between Donald Trump and Omarosa. What is important: The $1,000,000,000,000 annual deficits the White House projects for the next three years," with a link to a piece I had in Sunday's Waco Tribune-Herald about that (you can read that piece here).

But... then I thought about it, and deleted the tweet. The discussion that grew up around the Omarosa dispute (now tied to her release of a book that comes out today), I realized, actual is important.

In case you missed all this, Omarosa is a political consultant who became famous as a contestant on Donald Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice." She was on three times, and was fired each time. Moreover, she was famous for her ability to create drama on the show by engaging in power plays, getting into and extending petty disputes with other contestants, and (admittedly) some great one-liners and beautiful clothes. In short, she created a lot of drama. In fact, in the clip above at about 13:40, you can hear boxer Lenox Lewis say something to the effect of "I fought Mike Tyson, but riding in a van with those two [Omarosa and Piers Morgan] was worse." Wow.

The good questions coming up around Omarosa include:

-- Why would the President hire someone who he knew created unnecessary drama?

-- Why is it that the show he produced and starred in had remarkable racial diversity, but his White House has a total dearth of senior-level black staffers (or, for that matter, interns)?

-- How is it that a staffer was able to record conversations in a secure communications facility?

Or am I wrong?

Monday, August 13, 2018


Harvest Haiku

Perhaps none of us pay as much attention to plants as Christine, so of course her haiku was spot-on:

A seed planted, vines
grow long beneath summer skies
nectar of melon

Gavin (like me) spent some time on farms (I drove a pea viner when I was just 16; it was a great job):

I smell the grain dust
It taints the sunset blood red
My mind takes me back

I lounge on the hood
Sun-bronzed arms behind my head
I’m sixteen again

Combines rumble by
All us men bring in the wheat
Like it always was.

And Jill Scoggins has a vision that many Texans have experienced (among others):

South Texas cotton
bolls gathered on roadside look
like snow in the heat.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Soul Music

I grew up surrounded by music. My parents had a great record collection, and there were records stacked up to play all the time. They still do, in updated format; when I'm home, my dad will be painting in the back yard with Ornette Coleman playing.

In college, I had a radio show every week for all four years; my first year, IPLawGuy was the station manager, and I got his attention by remixing songs and I got a show. I loved picking out the music and talking about it-- some of what I said was even true. (Other things weren't-- for example, I once played a Toucan Sam 45 rpm record I had cut off the back of a serial box at 33 and claimed it was Barry White).

Into my 20's and 30's and beyond I consumed and loved music. I found new bands and went to concerts and when I drove I played music loud and sang in the car. I have always been astounded by people who can sing well; it's a total magic trick to me, like making objects disappear or speaking French.

But then, maybe ten years ago, something happened, and I don't really know how or why. I stopped looking for new music. I started listening to talk radio in the car. I lost track of what songs I had in my collection.

And I think I lost a part of my soul then, too-- a part that could bring real joy, or reflection or reverie.

What did I lose?

Well, I lost the feeling I had when I would drive down Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, singing this song and making appropriate hand gestures (when I was driving the Miata, people would stare):

And I lost the way a song like this would make my heart race, and get me ready for whatever it was that was going to happen next:

And this, too, could do the same thing to me:

I need to change this, and let my soul be whole again.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Poem Three

While I was away at the island I wrote some poems. I'm sharing a few here.

The Song Remains the Same

The song remains the same
Because we stopped, sometime,
Doing that
Kids with guitars
In a garage 
At night.

My brother played drums
So there were bands in our basement
Vans in the driveway
Music, noise, music.

The songs we all had in common
That told us who we were
That we were there
That we were together...
It's not like that now;
There is a thing like that, yes:
His name is Harry Potter,
And we all
We all
Are Hufflepuffs.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Haiku Friday: Harvest

This is the time of year when the really great food starts to show up. Here, we are deep in sweet corn, and my tomatoes came off the vine ripe and ready. Let's haiku about that this week!

Here, I will go first:

I grow tomatoes
And yet, I never eat them
The shape entrances.

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

Thursday, August 09, 2018



If you live in or around Minneapolis and you are looking for something to do tonight... I'll be speaking at Drinking Liberally, starting at 7 at the 331 Club, located at 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. People usually start gathering at 6 or 6:30.

I'll probably talk about the Richard Painter/Tina Smith primary, the Kavanaugh nomination, and (if they will let me), clemency. Please come! It is free, but you have to buy your own beer...


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Manafort Trial

It's been an interesting week in criminal law, as all eyes have been on the Paul Manafort trial, as President Trump's former campaign manager defends himself against charges unrelated to that role.

We saw some good lawyering. It appears that the prosecutors did a pretty good job of fronting the bad facts about a key witness, Rick Gates, inoculating him from some hard hits on cross. That said, the defense attorneys did their job and worked every angle they could when they got their bit at Gates (who was Manafort's Capo and, apparently, victimizer through theft).

The thing that really struck me, though, was Manafort's stuff. This guy really wanted to live the high life! It seems that he was quite stylin', stepping out in a $21,000 watch and a $15,000 ostrich coat.  He shopped at stores where you apparently have to have an appointment. Over the course of five years, he spent about $1,000,000 on clothes and jewelry.

People who know me are aware that, uh... let's just say that I don't spend a lot of money on clothes. Many of my clothes are from the last millennium, literally.  And I'm stumped as to what the utility or value is to a watch which costs $21,000. Does it tell time super-well? Is it weightless? Can it make you invisible? (actually, if it can make you invisible, a lot of people will start saving).

A long time in criminal law has taught me that the desire for stuff is the undoing of a lot of people. I suspect that the objects are a proxy for something else, a way of showing accomplishment, I guess. No one is immune, of course-- we all lust for something now and then (I'll admit to fantasy car shopping online).

Virtues and vice haven't changed much since ancient times. Wealth, power, and revenge are strong motivators... and always have been.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


Poem 2

Now that I am back from Osler Island, I'm plopping down some of the poems I wrote up there. This is the second.


She circles the truth
Oceans pulsing with tides
Periodic, constant,
Eyes affixed, splendid,
Proof of God
To close observers,
Half in darkness
Half in light
As she follows up
Her point.
Her neighbor leans in
It is history, all of it
Grit and loam and
Desiccated limbs
And all that is and was,
Not in the book but
In this slow badinage,
Creator and Created
And the small boy, too,
One row over,
Circles the answer;
Verdant forests
Green like a wave.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Last Day

So... I am back from remote Osler Island, and have seized the blog back from the French Department of Agriculture. 

I did write some poetry this year, though I can't vouch for the quality. Here is the first one:

Last Day (of the Fishing Trip)

I meant to grant clemency
To my bait, the survivors;
Send them back to the waters
From which they'd been taken.

The rain had come
So I wore my old green boots.
I stepped towards the edge
Planted my foot
And then
The ground was no longer there.

There is that moment
In the air
When you know you are falling
That you will land
That you stepped wrong;
The rocks are below you
Just rocks
Hard and sharp and dark.

And yet... I landed.
My head was not split open
No bone was broken
Not too much blood.

I washed dark red blood into the cold blue lake,
And watched the freed captives
I had thrown in the air.
They flew to the water
And struggled, struggled,
As they found their way.
In the end
They freed themselves.

Monday, August 06, 2018



Il n'y avait qu'un haïku cette semaine, et c'était un espagnol! Comme vous le savez probablement, ils sont surtout connus pour manger des animaux marins et porter des armures pour les dîners. Pourtant, ce haïku était étonnamment bon! Viva l'espana!


Waiting at stoplight,
Rear-ended at a dead stop,
The policeman laughed.

Sunday, August 05, 2018


En France...

En France, il existe de nombreuses formes de culte. Certains Français sont catholiques. D'autres sont hindous, musulmans ou bouddhistes. Beaucoup de Français aujourd'hui ne revendiquent aucune foi.

Le principal défi à la foi chrétienne en France est un manque apparent de pertinence aux problèmes contemporains, et un refus de s'engager positivement avec la culture. Certaines églises, cependant, essaient de nouvelles tactiques pour intéresser les citoyens ou essayent de nouvelles façons d'engager les gens déjà là. Comme dans beaucoup de pays, les adhérents de l'église deviennent de plus en plus âgés, et beaucoup de jeunes n'ont jamais été à l'intérieur d'une église.

Je crois comprendre que certaines églises américaines sont devenues si désespérées qu'elles ont utilisé des clowns hamburger, des courses de NASCAR et même des baskets d'ânes pour atteindre un public plus large. On doit se demander s'il y a une perte d'intégrité correspondante lorsqu'un célèbre clown de hamburger reçoit la chaire. Cela va vraiment à deux problèmes aux États-Unis: le déclin de l'église, et l'importance culturelle accrue des clowns hamburger.

Saturday, August 04, 2018


Seymour Skinner

En France, le plus célèbre de tous les Américains est "Principal Skinner". Il est aimé pour sa sagesse, son esprit et sa persévérance quand les choses tournent mal. Beaucoup d'enfants français sont nommés "Seymour" en son honneur.

Il semble que le principal Skinner est responsable d'une école américaine très célèbre où les délinquants et les enfants intelligents assistent aux cours. Il est le fer de lance de l'école, dirigeant tout le monde vers un succès certain!

Quand je suis allé aux États-Unis, j'ai été déçu de constater qu'il n'y avait pas de statues ou d'autres monuments à cette icône culturelle, qui a amusé le monde tout en faisant de nous de meilleures personnes.

Friday, August 03, 2018


Haiku sur les accidents de voiture!

Il est bien connu que les Américains aiment les films sur les accidents de voiture! J'ai été dans de nombreux accidents de voiture. Cette semaine, nous allons haïku sur les accidents de voiture.

Ici, je vais aller en premier:

Dans ma Renault
Je suis tombé sur le bistro
Et quatre bicyclettes.

Maintenant c'est ton tour! Utilisez simplement la formule syllabique 5/7/5 et amusez-vous!

Thursday, August 02, 2018


Dom Grooke

Ici, nous voyons un homme américain typique remplir tous les documents pour obtenir des soins de santé. Il semble qu'il ait eu trop d'enfants et ne puisse pas se payer du sirop contre la toux et des lingettes hygiéniques. Ils tousseront et sentiront mauvais!

En France, les soins de santé sont un droit et sont fournis à tous les citoyens grâce à une combinaison de médecins, d'infirmières, de praticiens du mime et de barbiers. Les médecins français sont bien connus pour leur taille et leur capacité à chanter des chansons de films.

Le triste récit de cet homme ("Dom Grooke") est qu'il n'a pas rempli tous les papiers correctement. La police peut venir et lui tirer dessus. Ceci est juste l'un des échanges de votre système de soins de santé.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


Produits agricoles de France!

La France est célèbre pour ses produits agricoles! Oui, les gens connaissent nos vins, mais sont-ils au courant des délicieuses betteraves cultivées par nos agriculteurs, ou des merveilleuses chèvres, des cigarettes, des carottes et des ânes?

Si vous visitez la France, prenez le temps de visiter l'une de nos zones agricoles, où vous en apprendrez plus sur ce que nous faisons. Vous visiterez peut-être une ferme laitière, où le lait sort d'une vache, puis entre dans une boîte et est conduit dans un camion piloté par une femme ivre. Ou peut-être que vous visitez une ferme de lapin, où les lapins sont rassemblés pour faire des oreillers et des nuages. De toute façon, ce sera la meilleure partie de vos vacances!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Zut alors, Philippe Gilbert!

Vous demandez peut-être ce qui est arrivé à ce cycliste. Il était monté dans la célèbre course, le Tour de France. Son pantalon était petite, cependant, et il s'est distrait de penser à cela, et aussi sur le déjeuner, et il s'est heurté à un mur et est tombé sur elle. Vous pouvez; de voir cela dans la vidéo, mais quand il est tombé sur le mur il est tombé dans un nid d'abeilles, puis a été attaqué par un ours. Tout était très malheureux. 

Cependant, il n'a pas été blessé. L'ours est en convalescence dans un hôpital.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Haiku ici!

Bonjour, Américains stupides qui sont amoureux de "Kim" Kardashian! Nous, à l'académie française de l'agriculture, avons acheté ce blog de M. Osler, qui était très triste au sujet du haïku de Nick la semaine dernière:

Quand vous êtes assez grand
Ennuyer les autres est mauvais
Mais le dédain est pire.

Nous avons payé Osler en vin rouge et cravates. S'il vous plaît préparez-vous pour une calvalcade de la culture française ici au rasoir d'Osler!

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