Friday, February 29, 2008


Haiku Friday: Election edition!

Something amazing is going on around here (besides two poetry contests in a row on the Razor). For the first time in a long time, a Texas presidential primary actually matters. The major candidates are swarming Texas with ads and appearances (Waco, however, is getting only Mike Huckabee and Chuck Norris). Excitement and meaningless verbiage fills the air!

And still, there is haiku. Here are this week's themes:

1) Mike Gravel
2) Other candidates
3) Roger Clemens
4) Cake
5) PC exercises begin again
6) Teen Angst (now in haiku!)
7) Airplane etiquette
8) Larry Craig hiring interns
9) The kid in the picture in the preceeding post
10) Coffee

Here is mine:

Standing amid graves
Face white, hair black, looking tough
Is it boy or girl?

Now you get a turn. Please make it a 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable kind of thing.


Thursday, February 28, 2008


It's Time for Some Depressing High School Poetry!

In November of 2006, I happened to come into possession of a high school poetry magazine which featured an amazing array of poetry by depressed teens. (I think the magazine was called Cumulus). I had a contest to write some depressing high school poetry, and got 31 most excellent entries. One of the better ones was this entry from Brian McKinney:

They need A/v
Calling, always calling,
Help them set up projectors...
Only to be mocked.

People here at the Razor seems a little dark and depressed lately... maybe even a little psychotic. Which tells me, friends, that it may be time for a new depressing high school poetry contest. And guess what? There will be a prize! Here's the prize: A very nice but unusual coffee mug from my extensive and totally random collection (IPLG can attest to this). So think about how bad you feel about that break-up right before prom and bring the bad poetry!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


More Law School Rankings on the Way!

Now here's an interesting development: These Guys have a plan to develop law school rankings based on the teaching and scholarship done by faculty at various schools. That is, they are going to see if faculty are doing what they are supposed to be doing-- teaching law and writing about the law.

The name of the report seems to indicate that the survey will reveal the "deadwood" on various faculties; that is, the people who say they teach or publish or both, but don't actually do it. I'm not sure if that correllates to a quality student experience, but it should at least measure how efficient various places are at delivering the goods.

A few interesting notes on methodology: They are going to rely on web sites for info, meaning that schools will be rewarded for up-to-date internet presences. Also, they will not include publications in the journal where a professor teaches, something that might disproportionately hurt Baylor, where some of our articles have appeared in the Baylor Law Review.


William F. Buckley, Jr.

William F. Buckley died today at age 82. He was one of the last of a generation of a certain kind of conservative: Erudite, wealthy, well-read, sharp-witted, and ready to laugh. He was often pictured in a library. He had a defined presence in both political and cultural circles begining with the publication in 1951 of "God and Man at Yale," an examination of academic freedom (and the loss of faith in college I was talking about a few posts ago). That book, by the way, is still relevant and remarkable.

While Buckley certainly did not represent a large group of Americans in his background, beliefs, elitist persona, and outlook, he did impact the broader debate in a number of positive ways. While I often disagreed with him, I always enjoyed him, and many others felt this way. The affection of your opponents is perhaps one of the greatest compliments of all to a person's character and life, and he well deserved those affections and the accolades that will come forth in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The carousel of faith

One of the people I got to catch up with in California last week was Oklahoma law prof Mike Scaperlanda, who runs (along with other people) the Mirrorofjustice blog. They recently posted an interesting bit of news: That 25% of Americans have left the religious affiliation of their childhood.

While commentators seem shocked by this, I think the number seems a little low, if anything. For many of my friends, the breaking point was college-- they stopped going to church then, and if they went back later, it was to a different church. Catholics became Unitarians, UCC people stayed home on Sunday and read the paper, Baptists became Catholics.

This might be good, if you believe (as I do) that people need to choose a faith instead of having one choose them. An adult choice of faith is often fully informed and committed relative to an affiliation of habit.

Of course, that logic may not apply to those many many people who drift away and never think about it much.

So, is this 25% "drift" good or bad?


Stop it, imposters on the Razor!

About every six months, it seems, I get a bunch of imposters impersonating posters here at the razor. A while ago, it was "IPSlawGuy" and some others. More recently, we had "GED4."

That was pretty harmless. But, more recently, I was "gotten" by such an imposter who commented on an old post and referred to another blog. I thought it was funny, put it into a full post (adding some silly links) and then found out it was not from the person I thought it was from (who had not used a blogger id).

Here's what I ask: If you think it is funny to do a take-off on a regular ID that is different than that id, go ahead. ie, GED4 relative to GED3. But please don't rip off someone else's identity wholesale, since it might be someone I really like.

Also, please don't quote Bryan Adams.

And don't tilt the seat way back on the American Eagle flights out of Waco.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Please don't Tivo this show...

Now that the Hollywood writer's strike is over, perhaps we can catalogue exactly the terrible things it created. The worst, perhaps, was a pathetic time-filler called "Fat March." What, exactly, was this show about? Well, they took a bunch of fat people and made them march on public roads.

It only would have been worse if I had been asked to be on the show.

[Actually, I take that back. Even worse is Rosie O'Donnell writing fan poetry about the show]


A common sadness

I trot around the blogs listed to the left every once in a while, and often find intriguing bits of thought and life. I was stopped in my tracks, though, by the strikingly honest and heartbreaking post by the author of Unexposed Granite. He is a theater student at Baylor, going through a spiritual crisis. Here is part of what he says there:

I can no longer describe my perceived distance from God as a season or a just a "desert" period. I am walking in a period of serious doubt. I've been longing for an encounter with God. I've outgrown the evangelical fervor that sustained my adolescent faith, but I have nothing to replace it. I don't need anything mystical, and yes, it might be an emotional connection I'm missing. But I think the word that best describes what I long for is transcendence.

As it is, each Christian I meet, each scripture I hear fails to move me. When people call on the name of Christ in just about any atmosphere it feels contrived and superstitious. When my pastor asked me to lead the "Children's portion" of our church by telling the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, for some reason I didn't feel comfortable conveying the story. And I realized, I don't believe it anymore. Why did Jesus have to go through this silly charade? And did Satan really appear to Jesus and talk to him? Stories that I blindly accepted as true all feel like fairy tales.

When it comes to prayer I find the only words I can utter in earnest are, "Dear Lord, please…show up." I have long said that I have no intention of "leaving the fold" because "where else would I go?" But here I am going to church weekly, praying with my kids at night and claiming to be a Christian feeling like a fraud. That can't be right...

This one is a bit less metaphysical. Becoming a student is a humbling experience. I am pretty much laying myself at the mercy of my professors and saying, I really don't know anything. Teach me. In so doing, I've lost a good bit of my confidence and I'm wary of trying to exert my "style" or "abilities" for fear that they are merely the ignorant exuberance of a novice. I have no idea if I am good director. I know people like me and that I'm learning a lot, but do the people who know the art believe I have something worth contributing? Does it matter? I suppose if I'm doubting my God, I'm not sure who my art is for. And even if it's for me... well... who am I?

I have been through a similar period, and so have most of the people I know. Have you? How did you pull yourself out? Or did you?

UPDATE: I "restarted" this post to focus on the crisis itself, rather than law school. I would really welcome responses which speak to this kind of a problem and how to deal with it. We'll agree that the same thing happens in law school and we profs should be more aware of that (and I really do agree with that).

Sunday, February 24, 2008


It's like I know him from somewhere...

One of the more intriguing aspects of my weekend was listening to Peter Gabel, one of the founders of the Critical Legal Studies movement. Here's the weird thing-- I had never met the guy before, but he seemed so familiar somehow... odd. He's a Harvard grad, long hair, tends to be quite active (running around, etc.) while speaking. He had a wonderful warmth and intelligence, as well (unusual in Harvard grads). Hmmmm.... who is it he reminds me of?

This is one of those times that I am crossing freely between worlds. On Saturday, I discussed law with philosophers (including both Dallas Willard and Oliver O'Donovan of the University of Edinborough), then had a wonderful pre-Oscar dinner in Santa Monica as people swirled around watching each other-- a shift from a world of thoughts to a world of the thoroughly corporeal. But now I am glad to get back into my regular world, to see my students and teach sentencing and put my books back on the shelves.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Higher Law?

My time here at the Pepperdine conference on natural lawhas been great. There seems to be consensus on the fact that there is a higher law; the tough question is figuring out what it is.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Malibu Haiku Friday

Things are good here in Cali, despite the rain. Tonight there was a panel discussion featuring Albert Altshuler, then drinks at Dean Ken Starr's house, then a nice dinner down the beach. Pepperdine knows how to treat guests!

Tomorrow I moderate my totally intimidating panel, which includes Dallas Willard, David Novak, Connie Rosati, and John O'Callaghan. My plan: mumble some introductions then run away.

But for now, it's all about the haiku. Here are this week's suggested, though not mandatory, themes:

1) KFC buffet
2) Project Runway
3) GED3 becomes obsolete
4) Baylor Law faculty dance crew
5) My least favorite valentine
6) Practice Court, week 2
7) The Clinton-Obama debate
8) Are you going to finish that donut?
9) Cake
10) Castro

Here's mine:

Sweet P, I thank you
For, like, not talking too much
Well, at least this week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Code is Law

You know how yesterday I said that Guido Calabresi was the smartest professor in school when I was there? Well the smartest student, to many minds, was Larry Lessig, now a Stanford Prof and leading scholar on issues involving the internet. He certainly is one of the most influential (though other candidates would include David Yassky and Jack Goldsmith). Today, the New York Times reported that he is likely to run for Congress. Though that isn't the big political news of the day, it does sound like an intriguing race.

If you have the need to read, Lessig's books are sharp, accessible, and important. More than anyone else, he has recognized how the development of the internet has changed the law when most of us weren't looking.


These days, you can turn in your grades from anywhere...

Unlike Prof. Serr, I'm not phoning it in from the slopes; rather, it is 11 at night and my kitchen counter is covered with tests, observation papers, student plea agreements and notes on motion hearings, but... I have just sent in my grades from the winter session of criminal practice. They aren't due until March, but I wanted to get them in as soon as I could.

There are a lot of things I can do better as a teacher, and for this quarter I am focusing on two: Getting grades in at least two weeks before deadline, and upgrading my performance in PR. The first task is done, and on the second I have made things better, I hope. Acknowledging that I don't teach well from cases (which don't often define PR rules, anyways), I simplified the reading by ditching the cases and relying more on hypos and (hopefully) clearer lectures.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


My second-favorite story about Guido Calabresi

As law students, we had the sense that the smartest person at Yale Law was the Dean, Guido Calabresi. He taught torts to all of us and was a constant presence in the hallways, so the basis for this was no secret. His intelligence was not conveyed through doctrinal knowledge-- all of our professors were masters of their fields. Rather it was through occasional bits of revealed wisdom that we saw his mind at its best.

Though he was an accomplished scholar at the highest levels, Dean Calabresi was eminently practical. He taught the policy behind torts, but in a way that was clear, sensible, and innately connected to the actual practice of law. This approach is still clear in his 1970 classic, The Cost of Accidents.

Each year, a scholar from another school would come and deliver the Storrs lecture, and the faculty and students would assemble nearly as a whole. One year, the speaker was a Harvard professor who was part of the leading academic trend of that moment, which borrowed heavily from literary theory. He spoke for well over an hour, pacing back and forth. For the life of me, I could not figure out what he was talking about, and neither could the classmates I sat with. His tone and verbiage reflected great intelligence, and we all felt like idiots, I suspect. Well, until the Dean rose to close the occasion.

Dean Calabresi was brief. I can't remember his precise words, but it was something like this: "Thank you so much, professor. I must confess to not knowing what a lot of that meant, which must mean that you are a far wiser man than I am."

The speaker grinned, pleased with the compliment. In the audience, we grinned, too, and even laughed, as we understood the Dean's words in a very different way. Though we may not always succeed, it is safe to say that many of us went out those heavy wooden doors into the New Haven rain determined to be like our Dean, and to create ourselves in a form very different than that taken by our speaker that day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I Heart Moneylaw

Of the many blogs I frequent, one of the most consistently interesting is Moneylaw, which is subtitled "The Art of Winning an Unfair Academic Game." Some of my favorite commentators, including Jim Chen, Nancy Rapoport, and Doug Berman, are there mucking things up. The content can be eclectic, challenging, or both at once, and frequently addresses some of the harder questions related to the legal academy.

As the legal blogosphere has developed, it has principally spawned two categories of blogs: Those that address a discrete area of law, and those that focus on the personality of an individual blogger. I like the fact that Moneylaw does not fit neatly into either group.


I pretty much do whatever Swanburg's Mom tells me to do...

For my trip to Malibu, I solicited some advice over on Swanburg's blog. I was very happy to get some advice from no less that Swanburg's Mom, who has become something of a celebrity here at the Razor. Her advice, in short, was that I should drive fast on mountain roads, then go to Chinatown, eat roast pig, and talk to myself in Danish.

Pretty much, that's what I would have done anyways.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Congratulations Hulitt Gloer!

I'm very lucky in that I get to teach alongside some of my heroes, and one of them is Prof. Hulitt Gloer. Tomorrow morning, Dr. Gloer will be installed as the David Garland Professor of Preaching at Truett Seminary. He richly deserves this honor, and I plan to be there at 9:30 to chime in on the accolades.

I'm sure many of you Razorites have good memories of Prof. Gloer from the Oral Advocacy class-- feel free to share.


The Penry Saga finally comes to a conclusion

The long death-penalty saga of John Paul Penry has finally come to a close. As Doug Berman compellingly describes it the prosecutors avoided a fourth retrial (on sentencing) by agreeing to life without parole, after appeals of the prior botched trials cost upwards of one billion dollars in total.

Penry's case is a long and circuitous one, and played a major role in defining Texas' death penalty procedures. At the core of the case was Penry's mental retardation, which repeatedly resulted in new trials with the same result. One of Penry's appeals was heard last year right here in Room 127 at Baylor Law School, and I remember feeling caught in a time warp as the attorneys discussed the events of the crime, which occurred in 1979.

Now Penry will spend the rest of his life where he has spent the last 28 years-- in prison. Was it worth the cost? Many of us are beginning to suspect that the death penalty will not be salvaged, even in Texas, in the face of intractable costs and declining enthusiasm for the sanction.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


My Day in Kentucky

Richard Bales at Northern Kentucky University's Chase College of Law invited me to speak to the Chase faculty last Friday as part of their "faculty workshop" series. Prof. Bales had noticed some of the ideas I had posted over at the Law School Innovation blog, and thought it might be interesting for them to hear more.

The NKU faculty seemed to like it, and I know that I did. I really enjoyed the audience I had there, and was impressed by their faculty. Like Baylor, they focus on the practical aspects of legal education, and after my talk I received some questions about exactly that. There is a growing divide in legal education between those schools that focus on skills and doctrine (the "professional school" approach) and others which spend more effort through teaching and scholarship on interdisciplinary study of economics, gender, race, literature, and philosophy (the "graduate school" approach). Baylor is firmly on one side of that divide, and I am proud of that, though I also value the education I got as a law student at the paradigm of the graduate school model.

Next week I will get a taste of the other side of this debate when I moderate a discussion of natural law at Pepperdine among several prominent philosophers, including Dallas Willard. More on that later in the week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Mark to Clark: Welcome!

Given the departure of three prominent Baylor law bloggers, I'm glad to see that at least one first-quarter student has taken up their place. Welcome to Clark, who so far seems to be doing ok in the crazy world we call first year of law school!

So let's show Clark some love!

Friday, February 15, 2008


Hiaku Explosion Friday!

This is the last of my commencement photos, and it kind of makes me sad. I always loved seeing the names Morgan and Biehl on a seating chart, because they seemed engaged in class, genuinely interested, and sometimes bemused by my madcap antics. They will both be great lawyers, and I hope that sometime they each will come around to visit.

I'm actually in Kentucky tonight, since tomorrow I am giving a lecture at Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase School of Law. There is snow on the ground here, which hushes everything.

Here are this week's haiku topics:

1) Roger Clemens
2) Graduation
3) Bad advice my Mom gave me
4) Can you watch Britney's kids for a few days? Thanks.
5) Valentine's Day
F) Kentucky
G) The first-quarter deluge
8) Spring!
9) Project Runway
10) Bates in Williamsburg

Here is mine:

Sweet P, those tattoos--
Not good on an elder, but
Better than your clothes.

Now it is your turn! Remember the formula: 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Project Commencement continues

Here's Dean Essary after her great commencement address. It could just be that she was too smart, articulate, and well-groomed to stay with us; after all, Bates and I aren't going anyplace.

Which raises the question: Who did she want to win Project Runway?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Fortunately, he only cut me with his wit...

As you may remember, the last we heard from BLS grad Tim Swearingen, he was threatening to "cut me" because of my opinion of certain contestants on the reality show "Project Runway."

Tim showed up at commencement, but no knife fight ensued. Tim seems to be doing quite well, and no doubt is at this exact moment hunched before the television cheering on his hero, the repulsive "Sweet P."


The Graduates: Matt Acosta

I'm not sure what I love most about this picture-- Acosta working some deal on the phone at the commencement reception, or the look his dad is giving him. Either way, it is 100% Acosta.

If you have been reading this blog, you are aware of some of the things Matt has accomplished during his time here at Baylor Law. He was the hardest-working guy around, and that is saying something in this crowd. He will truly be missed, though I suspect that we will see him around now and then...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Principle, Privilege, and College Controversies-- odd doings at my alma mater

I stopped by Brian Leiter's blog a few moments ago and stumbled on some surprising news from my undergrad alma mater, William and Mary. It seems that the president, Gene Nichol (a former law prof. and dean), was forced out of office based on two controversies. First, he approved the removal of a cross from a chapel (W & M is a state school), and second, he did not ban an art exhibit by prostitutes and other sex workers. Both issues have (predictably) raised the ire of some Virginians. It seems that Nichol finally was forced out after an extended period of tumult.

Since first posting this, I have received additional information on the entire incident which, at the least, convinces me that there is much more to this story than is being reported on the surface, and that President Nichol may be overstating his case.

At any rate, it seems that it may be a hard time for William & Mary, and this is yet another case where an ounce of humility may have saved people from a ton of trouble.


You Go, Detroit! (Pt. 2)

Not content with the title of "Most Miserable City," Detroit seems ready to take the next step into economic oblivion as General Motors announced a $38 billion loss for 2007. More remarkable is the news that GM is offering a buy-out to all of their US workers.

As I have opined before, GM's problems were not primarily caused by those workers-- This debacle was mostly caused by the decision of management to design and engineer too many crappy cars, cars that were never intended to be a good value, fun to drive, or generally worthwhile. The Cadillac Cimarron pictured here is one example, but if you don't believe me, rent (for as brief a period as possible) a GM minivan. That should do it. Yes, they can make good cars, and do, but it is madness to make an overly-broad product line which is pockmarked with stinkers. Drive a Cobalt, and you will probably never think about buying a Malibu.

At least they can still afford to have Mitt Romney DJ their parties.


The Blogger-Graduates: The Ladybird

The third blogger-graduate Saturday was our own Rebecca Griffin, who blogs as The Ladybird. While Baker's blog was reflective (with baseball overtones) and Craig Pankratz's dealt almost solely with spiritual issues, Rebecca's was more personal. Reading her life reports convinced me of the following:

1) That I never want to own a dog.
2) That Oral Roberts University was as foreign to my own experience as I imagined.
3) That I should be nice when people call asking for money.
4) That student life here really does encompass the highest highs and the lowest lows.

So, Ladybird, I'm sorry I didn't see you and your Mom after commencement, but I sure hope that she is proud of you. She should be.

Monday, February 11, 2008


You go, Detroit!

I'm taking a brief break from posting happy commencement photos to note that my hometown has been named America's "Most Miserable City." Here's what it said on Yahoo:

Imagine living in a city with the country's highest rate for violent crime and the second-highest unemployment rate. As an added kicker you need more Superfund dollars allocated to your city to clean up contaminated toxic waste sites than just about any other metro.

Unfortunately, this nightmare is a reality for the residents of Detroit. The Motor City grabs the top spot on Forbes' inaugural list of America's Most Miserable Cities.

I'm guessing they won't be using that catchy phrase "This nightmare is a reality for the residents of Detroit!" in the promotional brochures.


The Blogger-Graduates: Craig Pankratz

As mentioned below, Saturday's graduation decimated the ranks of BLS bloggers. One of the students I have most admired over the past few years has been Craig Pankratz. His blog is different than most of the others, in that he devoted it mainly to faith issues. Specifically, he used the blog to explain things about his Mormon faith to those of us who did not understand much about it. I, for one, learned a lot from what he shared, and always admired the sincerity and commitment reflected in his words.

Beyond his blogging, Craig was my research assistant and played a big role in almost everything I was able to get done the past quarter. His work was efficient, well-written, and clear, and that is pretty darn good. Like Stephen Baker, I know that Craig will make a great lawyer, and that whoever hires him will reflect on that hiring as a great decision. At the same time, I will miss not only his help but his presence here at the law school.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The Blogger-Graduates: Stephen Baker

Here's a totally sad statistic: Three bloggers graduated this weekend, leaving a glaring hole in the Baylor Law electronic community. It's a hole we will struggle to fill, as each had a different and fascinating take on the Law School experience.

Pictured above is Stephen Baker, who blogs as Poseur. I have always that it was a very strange thing to call himself, since of all the law students I have known, he may be the least fitting of that moniker. If nothing else, he is genuine, real, and human in the best sense.

I'll really miss this guy. I loved the way he would contest my points in PR, his enthusiasm for the law school experience, and the leadership role he took on my fall mock trial team. There are some people that I am sure will be great lawyers, and he is one of them.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


The crowd, the pictures, the sunshine

One of the great things about a February graduation in Texas is that after the ceremony the crowds can flood outdoors for pictures and hugs. Today was about seventy degrees with steady, warming sunshine. Sometimes, I just like to stand on the steps and watch the families as they gather around a graduate.

I hope that those families are proud-- they should be. Each of these graduates worked very very hard. I know; I was there with them. While I'm sure that they didn't exactly keep it a secret how hard they worked, I appreciate exactly what it was that they did and accomplished, as I got to read the tests, review the papers, and hear the answers in class.

At Baylor, a degree is something earned, not given.


Another Great Commencement!

There is something really special about commencement-- it is too rare that we celebrate accomplishment in such a public way, and this is a thing we teachers get to share with those we have worked with for years.

As I hoped and expected, Dean Melissa Essary gave a wonderful commencement address. As she spoke, it seemed very natural and obvious that she would be a dean, given her command of that sort of event and intellectual presence. These graduates are a group that have made many good decisions, and their choice of Melissa as speaker was one of the best.

There was also an excellent speech by the top graduate, Ashley DeForest. She is from a town near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Before orientation, I always pull up the admissions files of entering students so that I can call on them in orientation, bringing out something of themselves. The point, really, is that you aren't anonymous at Baylor Law, that we will know you. At this group's orientation, I called on Ashley and asked her what you would see if you looked down the main street of Cottonwood Falls. She said, correctly, that you would see the courthouse pictured above, which I have loved since the first time I saw it on a drive from Minnesota to Waco. In her speech today, Ashley recalled that moment, and then spoke about that courthouse in exactly the way that I have thought of it-- that we lawyers need to be like that courthouse, standing tall and proud on the plains.

And, yes, I took pictures. Those will be coming up...

Friday, February 08, 2008


Super Pre-Commencement Haiku Friday Spectacular!

It's the edge of a new world for a new crop of Baylor grads-- congratulations!

But first, shall we haiku? Here are this week's topics:

1) Commencements
2) Melissa Essary
3) IPLawGuy's role in John McCain's victory
4) Larry Bates: Should he be handcuffed?
5) Miss Newark (Pictured above)
6) Should our nation's youth learn Javascript?
7) Bad cars
8) France
9) Pikachu
10) Stephen Baker's muppet costume

Here is mine:

Baker as muppet
Quite the ideal look for him
Must give him cookies!

Now it is your turn. Use the traditional 5/7/5 syllable format, please...

Thursday, February 07, 2008


A wonderful recipe for fish pie with Tench and Eels

The Adjunct recently noted that I have failed to provide promised recipes of late. Today, I will start to remedy that oversight...

Fish Pie, with Tench and Eels


2 tench, 2 eels, 2 onions, a faggot of herbs, 4 blades of mace, 3 anchovies, 1 pint of water, pepper and salt to taste, 1 teaspoonful of chopped parsley, the yokes of 6 hard-boiled eggs, puff-paste.


Clean and bone the tench, skin and bone the eels, and cut them into pieces inches long, and leave the sides of the tench whole. Put the bones into a stewpan with the onions, herbs, mace, anchovies, water, and seasoning, and let them simmer gently for 1 hour. Strain it off, put it to cool, and skim off all the fat. Lay the tench and eels in a pie-dish, and between each layer put seasoning, chopped parsley, and hard-boiled eggs; pour in part of the strained liquor, cover with puff-paste, and bake for 1/2 hour or rather more. The oven should be rather quick, and when done, heat the remainder of the liquor, which pour into the pie.


1/2 hour to bake, or rather more if the oven is slow.

From _Mrs. Beeton’s Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book_ (facsimile of the 1865 edition)

[Note: This recipe was swiped from the Most Excellent Recipes of the Damned blog]


Attorney General Tries to reverse crack sentencing decision...

According to the Washington Post, the Department of Justice is fighting hard to reverse a ruling by the Sentencing Commission that not only reduced crack sentences, but made that change retroactive. Attorney General Mukaskey (pictured here) has taken the argument straight to the press in recent days.

The DOJ thinks that thousands of dangerous criminals will be released because of the change. I suppose that this is true, in the sense that "dangerous criminals" are released into the community all the time when their sentences are completed. Here, the sentence was changed to be current with what is now being imposed, and some people will get out earlier-- usually about a 20% break.

I have two problems with the DOJ position. First, they seem fixated on maintaining a sentencing scheme that nearly everyone else, including the experts at the sentencing commission, has concluded is unfair, racially imbalanced, and does not promote law enforcement goals. Second, if they are against retroactivity, why are they not just as strongly against changing the guideline for current offenders, who will in the future be "dangerous criminals" being released into the community once their sentences are done?

Since this issue has been active, the Department of Justice has had a near-obsession with maintaining the status quo, which does little to convince me they are concerned with Justice above all.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Boston in the Spring!

Two years ago, Baylor hosted the biennial meeting or religiously affiliated law schools. It's a pretty interesting and varied group of schools and people. The conference switches between Protestant and Catholic schools, and this year it will be held April 6-8 at Boston College. You can get complete information here

Below is the schedule for the conference:


5:00 p.m. Roman Catholic Mass, Trinity Chapel, BC Law School
(for those interested)

6:00 p.m. Opening Reception

7:00 p.m. Dinner




• Ladislas Orsy, S.J., Georgetown
• Mark Osler, Baylor
• Chaim Saiman, Villanova
• Amy Uelmen, Fordham

10:15 – 10:45 a.m. Break and informal discussion


• Jeff Brauch, Dean, Regent
• R. Michael Cassidy, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Boston College and BC Law School students
• Natt Gant, Regent
• Jerome Organ, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Univ. of St. Thomas (Minneapolis)
• Susan Stabile, Univ. of St. Thomas (Minneapolis)
• Ronald Volkmer, Creighton



• Mary Bowman, Seattle Univ.
• Cari Haaland, Director of Admissions, Univ. of St. Thomas (Minneapolis)
• Kenneth Starr, Dean, Pepperdine
• Kevin Worthen, Dean, BYU



• Michael Broyde, Emory
• Vince Rougeau, Notre Dame
• David Skeel, Univ. of Pennsylvania


• Sam Levine, Pepperdine
• Lucia Silecchia, Catholic Univ. of America
• Norah Wylie, Dean for Students, Boston College, and BC students


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Coming Up Next: Super Saturday!

Super Bowl Sunday actually turned out to provide a pretty good game—I watched the last seven minute, which was about the right time to turn it on, as it turned out. Today, of course is Super Tuesday, which could determine who the presidential nominees will be. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is Super Saturday, coming up this week.

I usually love commencements. I love getting to see the students recognized for their accomplishments, I love watching the crowd react, and I really love getting to meet the parents and finding out where certain traits and tendencies came from.

This Saturday’s commencement, though, is going to be more Super than usual, as the commencement address will be given by Melissa Essary. Melissa is the Dean of the law school at Campbell University in North Carolina, after a very successful career as a professor at Baylor. This group of graduates may be the last ones who had her as a professor, and it is very fitting that they would honor her now.

One of the first people I saw teach at Baylor was Dean Essary, and she exemplified what I wanted to do. It was clear that she loved both her subject and her students, and that there was a rare connection between them. She was a primary mentor for many students, especially women, and there probably were more students coming out of Baylor who wanted to model themselves after her than any other teacher.

It will be great to have her back for Super Saturday.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Baylor Law Professor Ed Horner, a beloved colleague and teacher

My colleague and friend Ed Horner (pictured at right with Angus McSwain and Matt Dawson) died Friday night at the age of 92. Up to the very end, he was in the office every week and was a familiar sight in the law school.

When I began at Baylor, Ed was one of those who greeted me most warmly and made me feel welcome. Over time, I came to admire him as a teacher and colleague. No one could rival his affection for his students; he not only remembered each one but where they sat in his class, which is incredible for someone who began teaching in 1948. I will admit to eavesdropping at times when one of those old students would come to see him, and their conversations made it clear that his teaching had made a measurable impact on the lives of those in his classes.

We will miss Ed Horner very much, and I only hope that I can develop some fraction of the talents he had and shared so freely.


One step towards a dream fulfilled

To begin the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, Bill Underwood reminded the thousands of people there that Martin Luther King had said the following in his "I Have a Dream" speech 45 years ago:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

If ever there was a table of brotherhood set before us, it was this week in Georgia. I hoped that, above all else, it would be a moment of racial reconciliation, and that turned out to be right. On the first night, I remember looking back at the crowd and seeing a world all jumbled up. Each day was a mix of worship styles, with black and white preachers and choirs and hymns. Some of the differences took people by surprise. For example, in many African-American congregations, men always wear dark suits, while in most white congregations it's not unusual to see people in jeans.

In my own presentation, most of the audience was African-American, and that changed things. People were saying "that's right, that's right" and "say it!" when I made a point, and when I told the story of coming out of the Supreme Court with Matt Acosta and Dustin Benham, they clapped and cheered.

I suppose this might have freaked me out (on top of Jimmy Carter being there), but it was wonderful. I never thought about this, but what that does is encourage the speaker, propel you on. I know I probably won't be getting that in my sentencing class this Spring, but maybe someday I'll have that kind of moment once again.

Friday, February 01, 2008


New Baptist Covenant Celebration wraps up with a bang, tribute to Jim Underwood

It would be kind of an understatement to say that the last day of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant was spectacular. Let's just say that my Dad sat (and stood) through 6 hours of church music and sermons today, and loved it, and he usually is not so much like that.

This morning, Baylor Prof. Joel Gregory (Truett Seminary) delivered an amazing sermon that pulled in his audience. Later, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa spoke, and he exceeded all my expectations with a talk that was both substantive and passionate. The other speaker, Lindsey Graham, pulled out at the last minute, reputedly under pressure from the Southern Baptist Convention. Wimp.

After lunch with my parents and 8 or 9 Underwoods, I went to hear 7th and James churchie Mary Darden talk about disaster relief. She did a fabulous job, and showed real emotion as she described what our church did after Katrina. It was one of my favorite presentations of the whole conference, and that's saying something. After that, I went with Pat Wilson to hear James Dunn and others talk about separation of church and state. Dunn, a Wake Forest professor, is the one who directed me to take the job at Baylor (this was in a South Carolina Cracker Barrel Restaurant) and I thanked him for that good advice.

The evening session, though, was the real stunner. Dr. Charles Adams gave about the best sermon I have ever heard. The only flaw, maybe, was his thanking "Jim" Underwood for organizing the CNBC-- well, it wasn't a flaw if you were the real Jim Underwood (Bill's brother), who was sitting in the front row. You can see the video here-- just scroll down the Charles Adams sermon near the bottom. You might want to fast-forward to the end, to get a flavor of what happened, and then you will want to watch the whole thing.

The last scheduled speaker was Bill Clinton, who hasn't been doing such a great job of public speaking the past week or so. Fortunately, he got his mojo back and gave a well-reasoned argument for reconciliation with the Southern Baptists. Right before he spoke, the Morehouse Glee Club performed, and they were incredible-- it would have been worth the trip just to hear them.

The spirit of the whole occasion was unbelievable. It was three days that changed many lives, and was one of those times, one of those very rare times, that something happens where years or decades later people say "I was there."


Another Incredible Day, followed by Haiku

I've always wanted to hear Jimmy Carter speak, in person, because I have always admired the man. That desire came true yesterday, when he spoke at the opening of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant. Today, he came to hear me speak.

First, though, this morning, Tony Campolo spoke to the assembly as a whole, and made my Mom cry. In a good way. Later, it was my turn to take a crack at that.

The official report on my talk can be reviewed here (it gets most of the facts right but overstates my role in the crack/powder changes- probably my fault for not fully explaining the role of an amicus brief). There is another one (unofficial) here. I think it went pretty well, and I really enjoyed the give and take with my co-presenter, Hugh Kirkegaard. He's Canadian, so once he referred to the letter "Zed" (that's what Canadians call the last letter of the alphabet), but other than that he was wonderfully informative, passionate, and clear. Our moderator was Dr. Bill Shiell, a Baylor guy and author who even mentioned the Razor in his introduction.

Shortly after we began, President Carter came in and sat in front of my parents. Further down the same row was Baylor President John Lilly. It was the trifecta of pressure-- parents, boss, former US President/Nobel Prize winner. I did try a little banter with President Carter, though, relating to his appointment of a judge I told a story about. He seemed to enjoy that.

After the evening session, in which Julie Pennington-Russell preached (wonderfully), and both Grant Teaff and John Grisham spoke (another great performance), I visited with the Lillys and then hung around with Jim and Bill Underwood and the Georgia Underwoods. Old stories were told, we laughed ourselves hoarse, and the other people in the restaurant wondered what was going on. I love being at that table.

Tomorrow is a more relaxed day (for me, at least), but for now I just wanna haiku. Do you?

Pick any theme you want. Here's mine:

These are those days that
You hope someday to witness
Suddenly, it's there.

Now, it is your turn:

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