Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Sad but true plea deal

... containing a resurrection clause. Why is it that so many legal cases involve these bizarre religious groups?

Also, how is it that students are now tipping me off to what is going on with Berman's blog? It used to be the other way around.


Best commercial ever:

But... doesn't that group really need Kim Mulkey? I would love that.


Joke Day

So, Baylor somehow finally makes it to the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor fans from across the nation scrabble to get tickets for the big game.

Joe Hoelscher manages to get a ticket, but his seat is up at the top of the second deck. With his binoculars, he spots a seat ten rows up right at the 50-yard line. Taking a chance, he heads down there and asks the man sitting next to the empty seat if the vacant spot is taken. The man says no, and Joe sits down.

The game ends with Baylor winning the national championship over Notre Dame. Amid the hoopla, Joe asks the man who in the world would have left a seat vcant for this big game.

"Oh, I bought that ticket for my wife," the man explains, "we haven't missed a Baylor game, home or away, in 30 years. But, she died last week," he explained, tearfully.

"Couldn't you get any of your other friends to come with you?" Joe asks.

"No," the man explains, "they are all at the funeral."

Got one? Share it--

Monday, March 30, 2009


Oh, Vince!

I guess we should have expected this from the promoter of the "Slap Chop." (Thanks tipsters...)


Baylor wins the National Trial Competition!

Yesterday, Baylor Law won the NTC, a mock trial competition which includes the majority of American law schools. The winning team was Joel Bailey, Eric Policastro, and Crystal Y'Barbo. Apparently, the field was softened up by the efforts of the other Baylor team, Tim Goines and Kendall Cockrell. Whooo! This is a really big win, and I'm so proud of these guys. Though we have won the other major trial competition (the ATLA/AAJ) a few times recently, this is our first win in the NTC since 1980. The amount of work these students put in is simply amazing, and sometimes it all pays off.

It seems that our recent success rate relates to Kathy Serr's coordination of our teams and she deserves some props, too, as does coach Jerry Powell.

I'm sure much of the credit, though, has to go to coach Robert R. Little's motivational techniques (pictured).

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Irv Benson

Irv Benson died this week in Grand Marais, Minnesota, some 65 miles from his home on Lake Saganaga, barely over the border in Canada. I have known him nearly my whole life, though I suspect he was much more memorable to me than I ever was to him. My family's life was full of characters, and in that cast he was one of the most distinct and wonderful.

Irv lived in the wilderness all year; we visited the lake for two weeks in the summer. He first went to Saganaga in 1948, and survived by running a trap line in the winter and a fishing camp in the summer. He was smart, witty, mischievous, and passionate, and was the heart of the small community on that lake. His wife, Tempest, had grown up on the next lake and knew all of the waters' secrets. My favorite legend (true or not) about the two of them was the time that they were running a trap line and Irv's socks got soaked and ruined, a serious problem in sub-zero temperatures. Tempest's solution was to shoot two rabbits, turn them inside-out, and put them on his freezing feet. Another version of the same tale had her using the rabbit as a cast on one of his broken limbs, and one or both may well have been true. Their life was like that-- improvised and brilliant, shaped by nature and their own inventiveness.

I doubt that I could eulogize him much better than the commenter to the last post, but my own addition would be that his spirit helped mine to grow, and his sense of what mattered challenges my own in the same way that the best always do-- by pulling me away from my self-centeredness and towards simpler truths and richness of life. I'm thankful that he was a part of my life.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Two Irvings

Today two Irvings died-- Irv Benson and Irving R. Levine. The former was a big influence on me and a fascinating man; the latter was a famous newsman and the father of a friend. I will write about Irv Benson tomorrow.

Irving R. Levine was an old-school newsman who appeared in a bow tie (and with a middle initial) up through the 90's. His reports were well-written, insightful and often very clever. My favorite story of his involved a group of feminists who snuck into toy stores and switched the sound chips in Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls, to hilarious effect.

At the end of the story, of course, his voice was replaced by a young woman's. He will be missed.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Haiku Friday: Spring

Traditional haiku often use nature themes, particularly those related to the change of seasons. This seems like a good week to embrace that, given that it is now Spring, a change of season most people look forward to.

Here in Cen-Tex, it's still relatively chilly, but the bluebonnets are out in force. Wherever you are, whatever your Spring is like, haiku it! Here is mine:

Rosebuds rise gently
Red enveloped in green hoods,
While thorns stand sentry.

Now it is your turn-- Five syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five for the last line...

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: What to do about North Korea?

What is it with North Korea? Despite attempts at appeasement by the Clinton and Bush administrations, the North Koreans, under "Beloved Leader" Kim Jong Il, keep developing new and scary military technologies. Most recently, they appear to have developed a long-range missile which might be capable of hitting parts of the US. In the past, of course, they have several times shown signs of developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, North Korea remains a very poor nation, far behind South Korea in its development and treatment of its citizens.

How much of a threat is North Korea? What can we do to lessen the dangers posed by a rogue state?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The World's Worst Airport...

Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

In a bizarre twist, Brian Leiter got to this one before I did...



For a class in the fall, I'm starting to put together a syllabus and think about reading material. One question I always face is whether to use a textbook or simply assign cases or other materials. Students and former students, does it matter? Does a textbook help to present the material in a more organized way?


Where to see American Violet...

Over at the American Violet website, they now have a solid list of what theaters will be showing the movie. It's a pretty interesting list-- but a little odd, too.

First the good news-- IPLawGuy, it will be playing right there by your old house, at the AMC Shirlington. It will also be playing at one of my favorite places, the Angelika in New York. It will also be showing all over Texas and California, where I'm sure there will be interest. There's something great about people in New York and California seeing "Baylor Law School" on the big screen.

But... here in Texas, it will be playing in Arlington, Bryan, Dallas, Frisco, Grapevine, Mesquite, Plano, at four places in Houston, in Humble, Stafford, and Sugarland but not Austin or Waco. Huh? At South by Southwest, the Austinites loved this movie! And I would think there will be interest here, giving the local angle. Weird.

Of course, in the realm of things I know nothing about, film distribution is very high on the list. It also could be that this list will change, and that a lot of other cities will be added to the list.

Ah, who knows. By the time mid-April rolls around I'm going to be well into a few new adventures... one of which saw some exciting developments today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Whoooooooo, Bears!

Baylor men get into the final four of the NIT by beating Auburn 74-72.

Baylor Lady Bears make the NCAA Sweet 16 by beating South Dakota State, 60-58.


Aquinas, sentencing guidelines, and acid trips

The last few months have been darn exciting, with a lot of stuff happening. On top of it, I love the two classes I'm teaching this quarter. Still, I need to keep moving on to new things, and in that vein I have some interesting (I hope) new work in the hopper.

Basically, what is in the dock are two companion pieces, both of which propose either scrapping or seriously revising the federal sentencing guidelines. However, they come to this conclusion from different directions.

The first is titled Policy, Uniformity, Discretion, and Congress's Sentencing Acid Trip. You can download it here. (Just click on "download" at the top of that page, then click on "SSRN" to start the download). I finished this one at the end of last year, and it will be appearing in the BYU Law Review next month. In short, it argues that the sentencing guidelines have so many conflicting policy goals that they effectively have none at all. If we want to have principled sentencing, we need to start over with fewer and simpler policy goals.

The more recent of the pair I just finished on Friday of last week. It is entitled Seeking Justice Below the Guidelines: Sentencing As An Expression of Natural Law. You can download that one here. (same drill-- click "download," then "SSRN"). This one analyzes judges rather than legislation. Starting with the observation that in those cases where judges don't follow the guidelines, they overwhelmingly go under rather than over the range, I argue that this reflects a natural law impulse towards justice (or, perhaps, mercy). Either way, it is inexorable, and will cause judges to subvert those guidelines so long as they fail to comport with that natural law impulse. Thus, in the interest of honest in sentencing we must (you guessed it) blow up the guidelines and start over, because subversion by insiders is inconsistent with the ideals of a free-speech democracy.

Do you think a law review will want to latch onto that one? Hopefully, we will find out soon...

Monday, March 23, 2009


No more waiting to exhale

As usual, I learned something today from Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog, which reported that Attorney General Holder is turning out to be more of a federalist than any of the Federalist Society favorites President Bush put into that position. In short, the feds will now respect state law and practice regarding medical marijuana.

I recognize that medical marijuana in California is a barely-regulated mess-- I've been to Venice Beach, after all. Still, I do think that the federalism principle does require some policy deference to the states, and I'm glad to see that the Obama administration is taking that seriously.


A short list of heroes I see every week

A long time ago, I decided to stop seeking heroes in comic books and the movies, and start looking for them in the immediate vicinity. I had to change my idea of hero, too-- rather than perfection, I look for people who exemplify a positive trait that I admire. This list contains only a fraction of those heroes I think of, and excludes some of those I have discussed already on the blog (ie, Bob Darden and David Moore). This, in fact, is just the people who have affected me in the past week:

For courage and truth-telling: Mary Landon Darden

For insight: Carl Hoover

For inspiration and intellect: Hulitt Gloer

For selflessness: Tom Featherston

For teaching ability: Jim Wren

For balance in life: Celebrity Luvr

For communication ability: Blaine McCormick

For dedication: Rory Ryan

Have you got a hero this week?

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Memo to aliens: Maybe work on the electric door technology

Today I went to see the movie "Race to Witch Mountain," which was kind of a nice change of pace after seeing "American Violet" three times in one week. There are many more car chases and people diving away from explosions in "Witch Mountain!"

However, I'm really wondering about something. Why is it that alien spacecraft in movies, despite their advanced technologies which enable them to fly faster than the speed of light, always feature electric doors which close at a snail's pace? Seriously, these "Witch Mountain" aliens had a ship whose doors closed at half the pace of a 2002 Honda Odyssey minivan with the electric door option.

Which, come to think of it, is something Honda should work into their marketing somehow...


Sunday Reflection: The Value of Quiet

Today, a lot of us will go to church. There will be singing and preaching and no small amount of socializing, and all of that is important to many people's spiritual lives. It is good that we have a place to go to get that.

However, for me, that is not all I need. To really feel spiritually whole, I also require a period of quiet reading and reflection, away from the deluge of media and even other people. One of my faults is that I don't create that time very often.

Those moments are easily seen in Jesus's life, as he steals away to reflect and pray. In the last chapter of my book, I talk about one instance of this that was remarkably public. One advantage I had in writing about Christ and the death penalty is that unlike many other social issues, he directly encountered this one-- In John 8, he comes upon a legal execution and stops it by challenging the moral right of a sinning public to inflict death on another. In the midst of this, though, he stops to think about it. He withdraws from the crowd and appears to be writing in the dust. Only then, having quietly contemplated the issue, does he answer.

Too often, I jump right to the answer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


My business plan...

According to some, the recent changes on facebook are driving people to Twitter. However, Twitter does not allow for the same range of content.

Can't there be a compromise-- something with the best of Twitter and Facebook? It could be called Twitbook, and that in itself would make it all worthwhile.


New Mexico becomes 15th state to get rid of capital punishment

There was some interesting political drama this week as New Mexico got rid of the death penalty in favor of a maximum sentence of life without parole. As Doug Berman reports, there are some interesting twists to this story. For one thing, Governor Bill Richardson decided whether or not to sign the bill by soliciting and then evaluating public comments. New Mexico only had two people on death row, but they will still be executed-- the repeal only applies to those committing crimes after the bill takes effect.

This is a big victory for the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty and its Executive Director, Viki Harrison Elkey.



I've been delinquent in adding Justin T.'s blog to the roll-- you can find it here.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Haiku Friday: Middle School Edition

Riding a bus this week reminded of the only time of my life during which I regularly too a bus-- middle school. I took a city bus back and forth about 4 miles between school and home. It wasn't nearly as nice as the "executive coach" we had the use of on Wednesday.

So, let's haiku about middle school this week. Ouch, this could get painful...

My friend, Moose Moran
Beat the kid who threw kickboards;
I got detention.

Now it is your turn:

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: The A.I.G. Bonuses

So, the American International Group paid bonuses last week to 418 employees. This company has been so badly run that it has required a $200 billion government bailout. The bonuses were for the express purpose of retaining many of those employees who had already destroyed the company through derivatives trading. Despite these being called "retention" bonuses, over $33,000,000 was paid to 52 people who had already quit or been fired.


Should we have just let this company die? That would have terminated the contracts which provided for this largesse, but possibly caused a cascade of other problems.

I suspect that what is rotten here relates to an underlying problem-- the system of corporate governance we allow, which grossly over-compensates executives without much regard to their performance.

UPDATE: Now it appears that Congress will tax those bonuses at a rate of 90%!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The Meaning of It

One of the things that has stumped me about "American Violet" is the title. Originally, it was to be called "American Inquisition," which made more sense to me. There is a scene where a main character cares for some African Violets, but that didn't seem so connected to the story for me.

As usual, I find myself blessed with friends who are more insightful than I am. Paul Larson, the Spanish Medievalist and one of the best teachers I know, offers this cogent and convincing explanation after seeing the film in Hearne last night:

We (whites) call them African Americans, but nobody calls us European Americans. By calling attention to the racial difference, we create space, racial space, that gives us power over them. We create a "lesser" American. Read Brown v. Board of Education again and you'll see that the judges, although they don't say it directly, were trying to deal with the "separate but equal" idea because they knew that that idea was specious. By dividing us by race we are invoking tacit apartheid. So the "violet" in the film is American. The plant is the "African," and it symbolizes many things such as hope, beauty and love. The title is not obvious if you haven't seen the movie, but once you have, it's really quite poetic.

As we walked out of the movie, Paul also called to my attention the fact that Regina Kelley, upon whom the lead plaintiff character is based, was wearing violet that night.


American Violet in Hearne last night; Waco Tonight!

Last night was an interesting and unique night. Along with about 50-some others, I traveled down to Hearne for the showing of American Violet at the town where most of the events shown in the movie actually occurred. It was fascinating to sit among the people who had lived this experience and see them react-- it was quite emotional.

Tonight, American Violet will show at the Mayborn Museum at 7:30, free. After the screening, I will lead a discussion with my former student David Moore and Will Patton, who plays him in the the movie. You may remember Will Patton from this scene:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Brackets!

First off, congratulations to the Baylor Lady Bears for winning the Big 12 tournament. I was listening to the end of the game while driving and I loved Lori Scott Fogelman's call on it-- the perfect balance between providing info and rooting for the home team. She does a great job.

Now it is time to focus on NCAA brackets. Here are some of the theories I have used to separate the wheat from the chaff in the past:

1) overall record
2) academic reputation
3) shortness of school name
4) feistiness of mascot

Surprisingly, the one time I won a pool (and a large one, at the US Attorney's office in Detroit), I used the academic reputation method. That is, I called close games by favoring the better academic institution. Luckily, that was a year that Princeton, Stanford, and Duke did very well...

All of which, I'm sure, would be approved of by former pro wrestler The Genius (who clobbered opponents with a metal Harvard diploma):

Monday, March 16, 2009


Sorry, Sir, we don't work with bricks...


The Authorities

What sources do you find authoritative? I was mulling this subject over with my siblings a few months ago, and here is what we came up with for two people we know (their identities are hidden to protect them from unfair judgment):

Person A:

1) The Bible
2) Shakespeare
3) Proust
4) The New York Times

Person B:

1) That Guy I Sat Next to On The Plane That One Time
2) This Guy At Habitat for Humanity Who Seemed to Know What He Was Talking About
3) Paul Robeson
4) That Story in the New Yorker from 1987

Feel free to list your own relied-upon authorities, or those of your loved ones...

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Schisms

Yesterday, I was reading about the split between the pre- and post-millenialists within the American evangelical movement. In a nutshell, the split involves exactly how the events predicted in the Book of Revelation will proceed. The pre-millenialists believe that Jesus will come to earth to usher in a new age, which will include tribulations. The pre-millenialists usually believe that Jesus will take away the Christians at the start of this period. Post-millenialists believe that the tribulations will come first, then Jesus. The debate between these two groups is quite intense, and can have amazing implications. For example, many pre-millenialists think it is silly to help the poor, since Jesus will return at any minute, making the true imperative the saving of souls.

What baffles me is how either side can be so sure of their reading of a singe, quite confusing book of the Bible. Schisms over such points have riven Christianity for centuries.


I can very much understand how this kind of thing seems ridiculous to non-Christians. Where does it come from? Why does it become so important?

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Whooo, Unlikely Baylor!

This is one of those times I really miss Bearmeat.

Baylor's men's basketball team was seeded 9th out of 12 teams in the Big 12 tournament. Undaunted, they have beat three teams they lost to in the regular season (Nebraska, Kansas, Texas) to get to the championship game. Their only hope of getting into the NCAA tournament is to beat Missouri today. Go Bears!

I really do love stories like this. I'm a season ticket holder who hoped for great things this year, and toughed it out when the team had a really badddddd February. Now they have pulled it together at the last possible minute.

It's like Hoosiers!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Haiku Friday: Fictional Characters as President of Baylor

Well, I'm sorry none of you got whatever it was iHarryPotter was talking about yesterday. I don't really understand it myself, but thought I would give the kid a chance.

But now, we are on to something else-- haiku Friday. Today, let us haiku on a single topic: What fictional character should become the next president of Baylor. Cereal mascot, hamburger clown, superhero, alter-ego, I don't care, as long as they don't actually exist.

Here is mine:

Jessica Rabbit--
Now there is a true leader!
Donations will flow.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday with guest booger iharrypotter

It's been a while since I have handed off Political Mayhem Thursday to someone else, so this week I'm giving things over to iharrypotter. Personally, I stopped watching the Harry Potter movies after they introduced that Jar-Jar Binks character...

This is the single biggest conspiracy in Harry Potter history since that whole gnome debacle at PotterFiesta 2002.

In fall 2008, Warner Bros. announced that the film adaption of the amazing novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince would be delayed until Summer 2009. This made many fans very angry, even to the point of total and utter boycott. I even met a couple at the Potteria Convention of January 2009 who were boycotting the entire Warner Bros. corporation because of the delay! But why does this affect you? Two words - the recession.

All the press is about the housing collapse and the sputtering car sales, but those are economies that rake in $200,000 from a single sale. Most people only buy new houses every 15 years or so (although I met a man at a Harry and the Potters concert in '04 that claimed that he had bought a new house every year since the first book was released), but the movie industry is an economy that is much more alive, with people buying tickets every two weeks or so. The movie adaption of Half-Blood Prince should have been king of this industry, following on the footsteps of the very popular (but inaccurate) adaption of Order of the Phoenix. But we plunged into this recession, and now, people just don't have the money to buy movie tickets as often.

However, the timely release of this movie could have saved us from this awful recession. When did the economy really plunge? November. When was Half-Blood Prince supposed to be released? November. Connect the dots for yourself. Could $300 million dollars in ticket sales have pushed the Bush bailout (thought to be the idea of one of Voldemort's lost stepsons, see The Leaky Cauldron Archives, 12 Dec 2008) over the top? Yes!

The only question left now is whether timely action from President Obama by adding some money to the stimulus package to "encourage" WB to release the movie soon could save us yet. As all of us "in the know" are aware of, Obama is a huge HP fan (spotted at MuggleNet LIVE! 2007 ordering a Cedric Diggory-Dog from the snack bar by a spy camera). Couldn't he add a measly $3 billion to the package to "convince" the movie execs at WB to release it now?

Also, what is your opinion on how the money in the stimulus package should be spent?

-iHarryPotter, voted "most likely to name at least one child 'Albus Severus' " by the readers of MuggleNet.com!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Oh, boy-- Bookpeople!

My favorite bookstore in the whole world is Bookpeople in Austin. It's a big, rambling independent bookstore full of people who love books. I've spent hours there, days probably, over the past several years. It also has a regular series of readings, and on June 16 (a Tuesday), I'll be giving a reading there.

It might seem silly, but to me this is incredibly exciting. First of all, if there is anyplace where I want people to know about my book it is the Capital of Texas. Texas is, after all, the foremost practitioner of the death penalty in the Western world. Second of all, there have been many times I have walked under that marquee where they list the authors and wondered what it would be like to be one of them.

Now I will know...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Stimulus for Waco

Not that Waco is getting any stimulus money (or that stimulus money should be doled out at all)... but if it did, what should it be spent on?

Given that this is a city that has pondered erecting a giant Texas Ranger with a big gun to stand next to the interstate, I worry what the official answer to this might be. But what would your answer be?

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Repressed Memory: The Gummi Bears

I realize that it has been a while since I posted any repressed memories, which are promised in this blog's heading. Haiku, sure; rants, plenty; recipes, occasionally; but not many repressed memories. So, here we go...

The year is 1978. I am a freshman in high school. Inexplicably, our entire family watches two television shows regularly: "The Muppet Show," and "Dance Fever with Danny Terrio," which air one after the other on Friday evening. One night, during Dance Fever, my dad pulls out a special treasure from a new store he has found. This store, apparently, sells food and other provisions for fallout shelters, packaged in huge amounts for long storage. With great fanfare, he drags a 50-pound can of gummi bears into the den.

There were a few fascinating aspects to this. First, gummi bears seemed like an odd thing to stock in your fallout shelter. I suppose that their main ingredient (gumm?) must have had great staying power. Second, there was something hilarious about such a huge number of gummi bears jammed into an industrial-sized barrel.

At any rate, we gobbled them down. For whatever reason, they were delicious. We spent the next half-hour laughing and scarfing down gummi bears. Personally, I probably ate about two pounds.

It was at this point that my brother decided to check out the label on the huge silver can. The first thing he read was "WARNING: Gummi bears are a mild laxative."

That was one Friday night that no one went out.


Sunday Reflection: Carry each other, you have to carry each other...

My mother often told me that "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." By that, she meant that God allows difficulties and challenges in our lives, but that He also provides a way of dealing with them, if we choose to look.

I've always struggled with that advice. First, it assumes such an active role for God in individual lives-- that he is micromanaging our surroundings. I'm not sure if that is true or not. Second, and at a more profound level, it seems hard to see how God provided for some people who were put into terrible hardship. For Jews in a death camp, what was provided?

However, as I get older, I am able to see what she was talking about, at least within my own relatively privileged life. When there have been challenges and heartbreak, there have always been people ready to hear me out and stand by me. Even at my worst, there were ways of bearing it, when I chose to look.

Perhaps there is a way to accept what my Mom said, at least in my own life. It may not be that God micromanages the details of our lives, but He has created us as such complex and beautiful creatures, and placed us in a world and society of such diversity, that few situations are so simple that there is nowhere to turn. I still don't have an answer for the holocaust, though. More thinking awaits.

And to those of you who have been the ones to carry me, even recently, thank you. In still, small ways you have been the light of God on Earth to one person.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Hey, what happened to Judge Goofybear?

Something has been sorely missing from Baylor basketball games this year: Judge Goofy Bear, the crowd-pleasing, Dr. Pepper-guzzling cretin who used to bounce up and down on his head or just lie on the court and wiggle. He always looked strangely... familiar, though I could never figure out why.

It's odd the way these characters just disappear. Like Frosty the Snowman, for example. How did the townspeople finally kill him? I remember they tried running him around for a while. This was discussed between Calvin and Hobbes, but never resolved. Oh, and then you have the opposite-- the character you see everywhere, but never seems to have done anything very entertaining, like Mickey The Mouse. Odd.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Haiku Friday: Razor Blender

Yeah, I'm still obsessed with the Sham-Wow ad.

But before we get to that... Samuel Goldwyn Films has provided me with a bus to go see American Violet in Hearne on St. Patrick's Day, which is Tuesday, March 17. Will Patton and some of the other actors in the movie will be there, along with the director, the writer, and several of the people portrayed in the movie. The bus will leave from the front of the law school at 4:30 pm. If you want to ride the bus and see the movie (all for free), either say that in haiku form below, or email me at mark_w_osler@baylor.edu.

Here are this week's topics:

1) Panda with a sham-wow
2) Sham-wow stimulus
3) Pandas in 1989
4) Walter Matthau's sham-wow
5) Bad News Pandas
6) The Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine

Or, whatever the heck you want.

Here is mine:

Vince, the Sham-Wow guy,
I hope you sell a billion
Maybe I'll take two.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Money Toss!

As I have stated here before, I think both Bush and Obama were wrong to try to "stimulate" the economy by spending (or just giving away) big wads of taxpayer money. This is especially true when we were not disciplined enough to save money during the flush times, and because it forestalls bad businesses like AIG from meeting their rightful, capitalistic fate of death.

But, it appears, not so many people agree with me. This Democratic administration, like the Republican administration that preceded it, seems intent on spending lots and lots of money right now. They might be right-- it worked for Reagan in the early 80's. Still, it seems unprincipled at best.

So here is today's parlor game: President Obama has put you in charge of spending $100 billion. The goal of that spending is twofold-- to stimulate the economy, and to generally improve the welfare of the population. You can only spend it in one area, so no splitting it up. Here are some of the possibilities:

Providing health insurance to children
Building roads
Investing in corporations
Giving it away to citizens
Funding high-speed rail
Spending it on the military
Using it for tuition grants

So, chief, what do you want to do? You are not limited to the options above...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


From Deeeeeeep in the archives...

I just flat-out stole this photo from Jon Neuchterlein's facebook page. It shows us in law school, circa 1989, in front of the house we shared at 69 Edwards Street in New Haven. Not pictured is our other housemate, Mike Schwartz. Around the corner, near the laundramat, lived a group of much taller classmates, including Brett Cavanaugh, Jeb Boasberg, Ed Burns, and Zeb Landsman.

And... I still have that shirt.


Now that's a poll!

Over at Brian Leiter's blog, he now has a poll on the greatest legal thinker of the 20th Century. At last check, Richard Posner was far ahead of the others... but this is a poll hosted out of the University of Chicago. I'm sure things will even out as people from all over jump in... or maybe they won't. It is hard to dispute Posner's influence.

Here are the nominees:

Bruce Ackerman
Guido Calabresi
Benjamin Cardozo
Ronald Dworkin
Richard Epstein
Lon Fuller
Henry M. Hart, Jr.
Karl Llewellyn
Richard Posner
Roscoe Pound
Herbert Wechsler

Interestingly, I was a student of two of the nominees, one of whom I have previously discussed here. Wow, that makes me feel really old. I'm pretty sure, though, that I was not a student of any of the top legal thinkers of the 19th century...

Now get over there and vote!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


A new link!

I now have a link to BLS alum Justin Hill's blog, which apparently has to do with things that go wrong in automobiles, resulting in litigation. Which, in fact, is pretty interesting stuff.

Justin is pictured here at the wheel of some deathtrap, probably a Corvair or something:


One in 31

A newly-released report by the Pew Foundation reveals some startling facts about criminal law in today's America.

One in every 31 Americans is in prison, on probation, or on parole.

This is expensive, and with state budgets in crisis, that matters.

What should be done?

Monday, March 02, 2009


More breaking news...

... about crack cocaine.


More Tumult on the Court of Criminal Appeals

Down in Austin, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of the Court of Criminal Appeals is facing trial for judicial misconduct related to a death penalty case. Sadly, it seems that the entire episode is devolving into an expensive morass. I can't say that I understand the full contours of this story, so I will not make further comment.

The lives of judges are unusual ones: They hold positions that are essential to society's health, but the job itself can be quite isolating. That in itself leads to problems, as they cannot easily reach out to others with knowledge for advice. I think we too often undervalue the public service offered by judges, especially relative to their pay, and too rarely celebrate their good works. Like some other essential jobs, when they do it well it appears invisible and when they goof up it is a huge story, as we see here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


The Evangelical Dilemma

The other day I overheard a young missionary trying to talk to someone about Christ. He was telling this young man about how much Jesus had meant in his life, and how the Bible was the way to truth. The young man was trying hard to ignore him, and finally said "so, I should believe what you do, because you really believe it a lot?"

He had a point. So much of what I hear when I am listening to evangelism (in person or on television), is simply someone stating that they believe something, a lot. Not surprisingly, this isn't very effective. There is no argument there, really. After all, the best arguments start where the hearer is, not the speaker. If I want to talk someone into something, I usually will do better by talking about them rather than myself, by appealing to what they know or desire.

Telling people they should think the Bible is true because I really really believe in the truth of the Bible is a strange way to approach things.


Another interesting review of Jesus on Death Row...

by Michael Spencer over at iMonk. Read it here.

It's become interesting to me how many comments on the book go around to the abortion/capital punishment comparison, which I don't really deal with in the book itself.

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