Friday, January 31, 2014


Haiku Friday: Dessert!

It is cold and snowy here-- we got six inches of new snow yesterday, and it is -16 this morning.  Yikes!

Cold weather is dessert weather.  Many people don't realize this, but food doesn't just taste good, it serves as a "fuel" for your body, which burns it up and converts into heat.  Or something like that.  Anyways, studies (my studies) have shown that people who get enough dessert stay much warmer in weather like this.

So... let's haiku about desserts!

Here is mine:

One-Two-Three Jello
Petrochemical banquet
I still love you best.

Now it is your turn!  Use the 5//7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun with this!

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Clemency in the offing!

As many of you know, I have been working for the past five years on spurring the Obama administration to grant more commutations, particularly for those serving long terms on crack convictions. I've been a part of five meetings with presidential advisers, and written several articles urging a vigorous use of the pardon power to address over-incarceration in narcotics cases.  I started our clinic at St. Thomas to present and highlight some of those cases.  In December, President Obama did something about it, granting eight such commutations.  This was great, but as I wrote for MSNBC,  it was not nearly enough:

While Obama’s clemency grants were important, principled, and well-chosen, they should be the start of his actions, not the end. The over-incarceration resulting from the War on Drugs has been so extensive, so racially disparate, and so inefficient at addressing any actual problem that the eight commutations issued last week barely made a mark. They represent the first lifeboat off a sinking ship. What remains to be done is to both send many more lifeboats and to fix the ship.

Now, something great has happened.  Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole gave a speech to the New York State Bar Association.  As reported by the New York Times, this is part of what he said:

But the President’s grant of commutations for these 8 individuals is only a first step. There is more to be done, because there are others like the eight who were granted clemency. There are more low-level, non-violent drug offenders who remain in prison, and who would likely have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of precisely the same offenses today. This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system.

To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice. It is the Department’s goal to find additional candidates, who are similarly situated to the eight granted clemency last year, and recommend them to the President for clemency consideration.

Just to be clear:  Not only is the administration signalling it will grant many more petitions, it is actively soliciting them.  Wow... that's a good day.


Today in the Detroit News...

I have an opinion piece on a juvenile law the state legislature is voting on-- you can read it here.


27 years...

Last weekend I went skiing with my sister Kathy and my brother Will...

Do you think we have changed much in the last 27 years?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Just up on HuffPo!

A new piece on clemency:  Obama's Opening to Mercy.


Knock-knock jokes-- on a cup!

When I was a kid, I shared a bathroom with my brother.  It was an excellent bathroom-- walls made of barn wood, a rickety towel rack, a tub you could sink into easily.  There was (and still is) a radiator under the shelf for towels, meaning that your towel was toasty warm in the winters.  A tiny drawing of a female nude hangs across from the tub.

The best feature, though, was a late addition.  My mom grew disgusted with the cup we used on the sink, and instead of yelling at us she installed a Dixie Cup dispenser.  It was awesome.

Then things got even better-- she loaded it up with Dixie Knock-Knock Cups, each of which featured a different and terrible knock-knock joke.  A few of them I still remember.  For example:

Who's there?
Highball who?
Highball is hard to catch!

Since we weren't big consumers of cocktails at ages 5-12, we had no idea what a "highball" was.  (I'm still not exactly sure, though I know there is a glass for it).  Cocktail-based humor for children kind of went with cartoon-based cigarette advertising and everything else we had in the 70's...

There there was this one:

Who's there?
Tissue who?
Tissue if you tum tozer!

It took us years to figure this one out.  It had no apparent meaning.  Finally, a family friend told us that it must be a variation of "kiss you if you come closer."  Who knew?

Please feel free to insert your own favorite knock-knock joke, whether or not it was produced by the Dixie Cup corporation, in the comments section below...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


What about the turtle fence?!?

Another State of the Union address, and once again the President has completely ignored the important turtle fence issue...


So… very…. cold...

Monday, January 27, 2014


Pickles! Sally! Behave!

They have seem to have reconciled, kind of, in there haiku battle of the century... read it all in the comments from last Friday's post.  Just be sure not to miss this gem:

Sally: bless your heart
That's what we say in the South
When we pity you.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Celebration of Craig

Today is Craig Anderson's 60th birthday.  The birthday itself is not such an important thing, a flipping of the odometer, but this person is important. 

Craig has been my mentor in many ways.  When I was 20 years old, he was my boss and the person in my life who was best at steering me towards what was right and away from what was... kinda stupid.  Because at that point in my life I felt some kind of inexorable pull towards doing stupid things. 

Later in life, he showed me other things.  He encouraged me in taking risks, talked me into doing the Trial of Jesus, and (perhaps most importantly) showed me how a church works.  In short, it works because people like him do what it takes to make it work.  I love his church, Holy Comforter in Richmond, and have gotten to know it.  I've given sermons there, seen their "cabaret night," and met most of the people who attend.  To many of the people there, it is the center of the world.  Craig is one of the people who holds it up, doing what is needed.  Sometimes he leads-- by taking the initiative, for example, in pushing the congregation to focus on the environment as a Christian stewardship.  Other times he follows, playing a role in making someone else's plan a success.  All of this he does with a remarkable selflessness.  I hope to someday be that way.

It's a worthwhile life, and one I greatly admire.

Saturday, January 25, 2014



Here is something I have wondered about since "Monster Week" on channel 50 in Detroit back in 1977.  Why is Gamera (shown above) described as "friend to children?"  Why would children want to be friends with a violent giant turtle? 

Friday, January 24, 2014


Haiku Friday: Who will win, Pickles or Sally?

In case you missed, we seem to have quite a dispute going on in the comments section from a few days ago between Pickles the Cat and Sally.  (You can check out their exchange here).  It appears that a cat fight (so to speak) is inevitable.  You challenge-- in haiku-- is describe who you think will win.  Here, I will go first…

Oh, Pickles, those ears!
And your nuclear device
Smart money's on you.

Now it is your turn!  Just make it 5/7/5 on the syllables, and have some fun...

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Politcial Mayhem Thursday: What is this, Maryland? McDonnell indicted.

As you may have heard, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who just finished his term, has already been indicted for receiving $140,000 in gifts that look pretty bribe-ish.  The moolah came from a shady outfit called "Star Scientific," which seems not so science-y.

McDonnell (pictured above) was indicted along with his wife, who appears to have done an awful lot of the shopping, which included (according to ABC News) Ferraris, Rolexes, and a $20,000 shopping spree.

Virginia is not a state known for public corruption, unlike its often-troubled neighbors, Washington DC and Maryland.

According to the indictment, here is what the government seeks to forfeit:

The sum of not less than $140,805.46;
Black Rebecca Minkoff shoes;
Black Louis Vuitton shoes;
White Louis Vuitton shoes;
Cream Louis Vuitton purse;
Cream Louis Vuitton wallet;
Silver Rolex Watch engraved with “71s1 Governor of Virginia”;
Yellow Peter Som dress;
Blue Armani jacket and two matching dresses;
Two Gold Oscar de la Renta dresses;
Black Louis Vuitton rain coat;
Gold Oscar de le Renta sweater;
One pair of Amelia Rose earrings;
One Gear sweatshirt;
Two pairs of Foot Joy golf shoes;
One button-down Ralph Lauren shirt;
One white Peter Millar golf shirt;
One baby blue striped Peter Millar golf shirt;
One royal blue Peter Millar golf shirt;
One aqua Fairway Greene Tech golf shirt;
One white striped Ralph Lauren golf shirt;
One Ping University of Virginia golf bag;
One Ping Kinloch golf bag;
One Sun Mountain Notre Dame golf bag;
Two sets of golf clubs;
One Heather Mackenzie water color and frame;
Two iPhones; and
30 boxes of Anatabloc®

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The strange fate of Xtranormal

Some of you might remember the "IPLawGuy" series of videos I made, the third of which is included above.  I created them using a service called Xtranormal, which turned text into the dialogue in the video.  It was a great service, and what you paid for various features seemed reasonable.

Then, in July of last year, it just died.  I'm not a business expert, but this one baffles me-- the development expenses had already been spent, and by last summer the site should have been simply generating money.

Am I missing something?  How does this happen?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It's the Bong Bowl!

.... or at least that is what USA Today is calling it.  With the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos squaring off in the big game, it turns out that the Super Bowl involves the two states which have legalized marijuana!

I have waded a little into this fray, and find the debate fascinating.  Last weekend, someone asked me a good question about legal marijuana:  Does legalization mean that companies can't fire people who test positive?  I think what this might spur is a unified approach to the abuse of legal substances-- alcohol, oxycontin, marijuana, etc.-- in those places where marijuana is now legal.  Sure, and employer can often fire an employee for abusing alcohol, so I suppose the same will be true of marijuana.  Still, most employers have policies that favor treatment of abuse, and hopefully that will be broadened and extended.

In other news, President Obama had a bit to say about marijuana in the New Yorker, and I agree with what he had to say about the developments in Washington and Colorado:  “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.” 

Monday, January 20, 2014


Yes! Haiku!

Wow.  Just wow.  You guys rock.  Check out all the haiku entries here-- I'm not pointing to a favorite because there are several I love, and don't want to diss any of them.

Some observations:

-- Either we have some new poets around, or a great poet or two has created alter-egos... and either way, it is a great thing!

-- Someday, we need to sort out the status of Geoffrey and Sally's relationship.

-- Can we publish the best of these someplace?

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The clear light of winter

For many people in Minnesota, winter is their favorite season.  It is the one that most defines the place-- no one has winters like we do-- and brings out the character of the people.  These are people who like to walk on snow, who thrive on skis, and who relish that first cold snap.

For many people in the south, winter in Minnesota is defined by a Dristan commercial:  Miserable people with colds suffering in a wind and freezing-rain storm that will last for months.  The truth is rarely much like that.  It snows big, dry flakes, and many days are sunny, sunnier than you can imagine, with the light bouncing off the snow and compounding.  The sky is a bracing blue, and sound carries over the stillness-- you can hear people on the lake talking as they walk or ski.

I like that, in the same way I liked Texans taking to the summer, seeing the beauty in that extreme, the heat shimmering off the plains, echoing back up to God.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Clark the Cub off to a troubled start...

In lieu of getting better players or more popular owners (or less drunk-y fans), the Chicago Cubs have unveiled a new mascot, Clark the Cub.  The project is off to a troubled start, as several media outlets apparently announced the decision while displaying a drawing of an anatomically correct version of the pants-less Clark.  And, no, I am not providing a link to that.

Chicago seems to have a tradition of deeply troubled mascots, which up to now has mostly been carried on by bong-toting Northwestern U. mascot Willie the Wildcat.  

Of course, there is mascot weirdness everywhere-- even at Baylor University.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Haiku Friday: College Weirdness

So, is there church on Sunday, or not????

Anyways, Woody sent me a list of America's most interesting colleges, which was interesting but seemed a little arbitrary (it appears to be linked to a catalogue of "hipster" area codes, for one thing).  Mostly, and I like this, "interesting" meant "has the potential for weirdness."  

College is kind of weird, at least sometimes.  Let's haiku about that-- your own experiences, or someone else's.  I'll go first:

What?!???!!!  No Reed College?
Stoners AND a student-run

Now it is your turn!  Make if fun, and throw in 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third...

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The House of Reps Has a New Attitude!

After years of every vote being a "showdown," it appears that the US House of Representatives is moving towards an era of greater cooperation.  By a vote of 359 to 67, it approved a new budget deal that will keep things calm until at least October. 

Intriguingly, the New York Times reports that this represents a "marginalization of the Republican far right," representatives of which are pretty upset at the deal.

There is a level at which those who are upset are right.  The proposed budget was 1,582 pages long and revealed only a few days ago, meaning that it is highly unlikely that anyone who voted for it actually read it.  (As someone who has been poring over legislation the last few days, believe me when I tell you that this stuff can be pretty dry).  Of course, they received a summary, and that can be more informative than you might imagine.  Even if we gave them a year, it is unlikely a lot of Members would have read this legislation. 

The bigger story arc is this:  The far right pushed for too much, and Speaker of the House John Boehner eventually got fed up.  Now the Tea Party stalwarts and related groups are being ignored.  They don't like it, but there is not much they can do... at least until the primaries start.  That is when things will get interesting.  It seems undeniable that standing firm on right-wing principles is no longer so popular in Washington.  The remaining question is whether the same transition has happened in the areas which elect Republicans to Congress... and I'm not sure it has.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


More Wisdom on Detroit (not from me)

On a trip back to Detroit earlier this month, I drove by our old house on Harvard Road.  It was sad to see it boarded up.   Importantly, unlike what you will find in many neighborhoods in the city, it looked like the only abandoned house on the street.  That crumbling sidewalk was where I learned to ride a bike, and the backyard of this house was our baseball field in the summer and hockey rink in the winter.

Discussing the fate of Detroit is a risky venture.  If you emphasize the negative, Detroiters become defensive-- there is a real resentment of the "ruin porn" found in the media.  On the other hand, a rosy depiction of the city and its neighborhoods is largely untrue-- there just are a lot of ruins.   The truth is complex, like all worthwhile things.

In the comments section of yesterday's post about the Detroit Institute of Art and its wobbly status as the city suffers through bankruptcy there were two comments I though were really wonderful, and worthy of a post of their own.

The first was this note by my dad:

Most days, there is a long line of yellow school buses in front of the DIA. They wait for schoolchildren from many districts to pile back into their seats after having been exposed to some absolute wonders. Somehow this happened in the City of Detroit.They have certainly been helped by their neighboring communities. At the same time city workers have plugged along looking forward to retirement.

Both the DIA and the the worker's pension funds have been badly managed in the past. These problems were not caused by art lovers, schoolchildren and workers. We will need more art and the best municipal workforce possible to recover this city.

However, without fresh ideas the system will remain intact that created the problems. $500.000,000 will be spent to keep the status quo rather than to jump start the city. There must be other solutions.

The other was by my wise friend and mentor, Craig Anderson:

I think about this in terms of the sacred, the transcendent and sacred space. Like standing in a great cathedral, or standing in a great natural landscape … there is something transporting and transcendent about great art and great art museums. I love that and I love how art museums make me feel. Art museums always extend me and challenge me to imagine the unimaginable. They often make me feel far better about the human condition … even when they trouble me. And they often get me in touch with my better, more creative self. I love that. I am mindful that this can lend itself to an idealized take on art … yet I think there is a place for all that. And particularly so in imploding urban centers.

Like great cathedrals and like World Heritage Sites, such as the Redwoods … certain things should remain protected and sacred … and exempt from the press of more worldly economics.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Saving the Detroit Institute of Arts?

As most of you know, my birthplace, the City of Detroit, is bankrupt.  The bankruptcy case is complex and remarkable-- the city apparently bears responsibility for $3.5 billion just in unfunded pension liabilities.

The City of Detroit is the sole owner of the Detroit Institute of Arts, a remarkable place on Woodward Avenue.  An issue in the bankruptcy case has been whether or not the art in the DIA can be sold to satisfy the City's debts.  The collection has already been evaluated by Christie's for this purpose, and people who love the DIA have been alarmed.

Yesterday's New York Times reported some possible good news.   It appears that three foundations with roots in the city-- the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Knight Foundation-- are offering a deal where they would provide $330 million towards the city's debt if the art is left alone.

It's a good thing, of course, if the art is kept at the DIA, a place I visit every year.  Still, there is something profoundly sad about these foundations using money for that purpose, when it could otherwise be used for community-building... but that is just one of many profound sadnesses swirling around this city.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Haiku, bands, and questions!

Renee, I love this imagery, but is there really an Isle of Phyve?

She was fifteen when
She saw him, playing his bass
In the Oddfellow's.

The Isle of Phyve,Tom.
Tenor sexvoice,Young Rascals
Jumped in her bell bottoms.

And Ang, did Tears for Fears ever actually have concerts?

Shout, let it all out!
Never saw Tears for Fears live,
but loved the LP.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Resting

Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester, and I have taken a little time off in the last month.  Time off from writing, from speaking, from doing much of anything in public, and that has been good.

We all need a little fallow time; if we don't create it, it will create itself.  I think that is what "burn-out" is, really-- the body and mind and soul claiming what you did not give it freely.

It's funny how this is one of the ancient commandments that Jesus preaches regularly-- to respect the Sabbath, the day of rest.  So few of us do that (including me, very often), and it is literally counter-cultural to do so.

Tomorrow, though, the wheels start spinning again!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Minneapolis is #1!

I like cold weather-- I really do.  It appears that I'm in the right place, since Minneapolis is apparently the coldest city in the US...

Here is the complete list:

1. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

2. Anchorage, Alaska

3. Madison, Wisconsin

4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

5. Omaha, Nebraska

6. Chicago, Illinois

7. Lincoln, Nebraska

8. Rochester, New York

9. Buffalo, New York

10. Ft. Wayne, Indiana

11. Toledo, Ohio

12. Detroit, Michigan

13. Akron, Ohio

14. Cleveland, Ohio

15. Indianapolis, Indiana

16. Colorado Springs, Colorado

17. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

18. Denver, Colorado

19. Kansas City, Missouri

20. Boston, Massachusetts

A couple of these surprise me.  Kansas City???  Really?  I mean, it's in Missouri (not that that makes any sense, either....).

Friday, January 10, 2014


Haiku Friday: Best bands!

Yesterday, IPLawGuy listed his favorite American bands (a list which necessarily excluded his favorite solo artists, such as Republican heartthrob Lady Theresa Thombs, performing above).  Here is how they came out:

My ranking of American BANDS with more than one contributor in the group (not solo artists or stars like Hendrix or Springsteen): 1. The Ramones. 2. Creedence Clearwater Revival 3. Allman Brothers 4. Starland Vocal Band 5. Nirvana 6. The Byrds 7. The Eagles (and I am NOT a fan) 8. The Beach Boys 9. Jefferson Airplane (not Starship) 10. The Sonics (OK, this is a reach, but hugely influential).

I totally disagree with him, of course-- how could you leave out the Grateful Dead?-- but I like the idea a lot.  So let's haiku about our favorite bands!

I'll go first:

They sang like angels
But were gone to soon; we cried.
Long live Spinal Tap!

Now you go!  Use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Rodman in North Korea; Christie and His Bridge

Is this a good thing?  Or a bad thing?

Meanwhile, it appears that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's top aides orchestrated a completely artificial traffic snarl by the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for supporting Christie's opponent in the last election.

This completely changes my opinion of Christie and the people he chooses to delegate authority to.  It will impact his political future, as it should, and I don't think he has the guts to do the hard things (as Ron Fournier describes it) necessary to address this scandal.

It matters because a fake traffic jam is something that speaks to everyone's experiences-- it's the kind of bullying where we can feel the hurt.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


The Earthquake Button!

Last week I was at the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mr. Hood, and noticed the button pictured above in the elevator.

I understand the "call cancel" button, and I suppose if you press the button with a fireman's hat on, some firemen  will come.  But what happens if you hit the "earthquake" button?  Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014



[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

In Detroit, not far from downtown, you need to start by finding the Eastern Market.  It's old and gritty and rough-hewn, a place where all different kinds of people go to buy garlic and Christmas trees and beef.  

Then, go to the store where women stand behind an old wood counter, ready to cleave off a hunk of  cheese to your specifications.  Go to the back of the store, past the ancient elevator to the worn wooden stairs covered with sawdust and climb to the second floor.

Don't stop, though.  Push through the things stored up there to another set of stairs and climb up to the third floor.  It's full of puzzles and gizmos and spatulas, but head straight to the back.  There is a set of double doors marked "do not enter" and "authorized persons only."  If you are authorized, go on through those doors and into a full-on recording studio; the guy sitting at the piano won a Grammy and an Oscar, and also chose this space and hung it with tiny white lights.  Push on through to a door at the back of his studio and walk into the space pictured above.

In the corner is a small pile of paintings, my Dad's.  And there, too, you might find him.  It's the right place for him to work. 

Monday, January 06, 2014


Ouch, Sally!

Did the rest of you catch this haiku exchange?

Geoffrey Mustang Boy said...
I resolved to look
Only at Sally and not...
"Hel-lo Miss Bum Divine!"
2:21 PM
Anonymous Mustang's Former Sally said...
Listen Osler--Geoff sucks!

I resolve to be
A Persian rug and approve
Whatever Geoff does! Not!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll show him divine
Bum with my gum boots up it
Kicking swiftly home.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Politics and People

There are people I know for whom there is great importance in who is elected president in 2016.  Some feel that if another Democrat is elected, it will be an utter disaster; others think that if a Republican wins, the nation will lose its values.

It's odd, though-- this obsession is really a way to put our own fates in the hands of others.  We imagine that who is president will profoundly affect our lives, but that is rarely true.  After all, before this Democrat, we had a Republican, before that a Democrat, and before that a Republican... and life went on.

Really, we control our own lives to a much greater degree than the president does; what job we seek and how well we do it is much more important than marginal tax rates.  Often, I notice it is those (on both sides) most disappointed with their lives who attach the most importance to politics.

If we want an outcome, that is mostly up to us, but we all make odd choices.  For example, if you want to keep your house safe, you might think you need a gun.  But the chance of a home invasion is remote; the chance of a fire is much more likely.  Getting a smoke detector more directly serves the purpose of home protection than a gun.  But the gun represents power, and that is something other than what we imagine we are really pursuing.

Accountability for our own lives is a difficult path.  Faith makes it easier for some; at its best it humbles us, and lets us see our own flaws.  That's not a bad thing.

Saturday, January 04, 2014


Can I cite to this?

Friday, January 03, 2014


Haiku Friday: Resolutions for OTHER people!

2013 is over!  Hurray!  Not that it was a total loss-- lots of good things happened.  It's not a big thing, but someone sent me a link to the Star-Tribune's most-read opinion pieces from the year, and there was something wonderful about seeing my name listed along with my most-feared law prof from 1988, Stephen Carter.

But no more looking backwards... let's look forwards, and make some resolutions!  If you feel compelled, please offer up, in haiku form, you own resolution.  Or, if you prefer, maybe you could pony up a resolution for someone else!  Here, I'll show you how that would work:

Hey, IPLawGuy!
Maybe next year you could buy
A new Camaro!

(His old one is pretty raggedy).  

Now, you take a turn!  Use the 5/7/5 syllable recipe, and make sure to do it soon, so I don't get all cranky like last week...

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Shirt slogan contest!

So, what should the BACK of IPLawGuy's shirt say?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Happy New Year!!!!

It's 2014!  I'm glad to see it, too.  The last year was in some ways a difficult one, with joy mixed with sorrow.  

Are you glad for this flip of the calendar?

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