Monday, February 29, 2016


Me like cookies and haiku!

So many great poems last week! But these two made me sad and hungry (in turn)...

From MKS:

Raisins pretending
They are chocolate chips
So disappointing.

And from Amy:

Still crave school cookies,
Thick, round, cafeteria-
Made treats, once a week

Peanut butter, with
criss-crossed fork tines stamped on top,
Chewy, crumbly, oh .. .

Somewhere in N.C.
I hope the lunch ladies are
Still making them.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The End of Winter, the Thrill of Change

It might be a false alarm, but yesterday felt like the end of winter here in Minnesota.  It was in the 50's, and the snow was mostly melted away. I went walking by the Mississippi, and you could see it: the rivulets flowing down to the might river, that would carry our little snowbanks off to the sea.

Walking over the Stone Arch Bridge, it seemed like everyone in Minnesota was doing exactly the same thing. By the rail, people would pose for pictures in a t-shirt in front of the remaining snow, or marvel at the passing parade.

We are thrilled by change. It is rooted deep within us to respond to the change in seasons, to new generations, to the wonder of a place that is not our own.

Perhaps that is why people are so often in thrall to political candidates who promise change. We may not even think through what that change would be, and whether it would be good-- we just want a selfie and that vague hope.

Eternal virtues are always there, of course: Humility, faith, service.  They, too, can effect great change-- in fact, those who truly change the world for the better usually do it from this handful of traits.  This might be a good time to remember that.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Art of a different mind

I am lucky to be surrounded in this life by people who do things that I admire. One of them is my sister Kathy, who is a social worker in Chicago.

Specifically, she works with people who have mental illnesses and would be institutionalized (in prison or a mental ward) but for her work-- she goes to a client's home, works with him, and makes sure everything is ok.

Her advanced training is in art therapy. That is, she uses art to help her clients express and understand themselves and create something worthwhile. Earlier this year, she curated a remarkable exhibit of her clients' work at the ARC gallery in Chicago. The images are striking and real; the true images of how these clients see the world.

Here is part of the description of Kathy's work from the program of the exhibit:

Kathy Osler, ATR, LCPC, is the curator of this art exhibition and works as an art therapist at several Thresholds programs.  She has been working in the field of art therapy for 16 years, developing programs to integrate creative expression in the treatment of mental health.   In working with the artists in this program,  she has observed a transformation in some as they identified themselves as artists and how this empowers them to find their own strength in recovery.  The artwork stands on its’ own,  as objects of beauty and as authentic expressions by individuals who value the process as vital to their personal growth.

It is pretty incredible stuff.  I'm proud to be her brother, and always amazed at what she does.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Haiku Friday: Cookie Cuisine

I'm a fan of cookies. Partly, it is my mom's fault-- she made some great cookies when I was a kid, and still does. Then she did something brilliant: She taught my brother how to make them, and he is also a master. I remember in high school, he used to whip up a batch in between two-a-day football practices.  Even now, I sometimes am the lucky recipient of a fresh batch on a birthday or holiday.

Let's haiku about cookies-- do what you want with this. Here, I will go first:

One of my secrets:
I can't be near lemon bars
It's bad for us both.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 formula and have some fun! Feel free to refer to anything that has occurred in the fruit salad of your life.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: My Dad on Bernie

Continuing my string of Thursday guest-bloggers, my dad sent me this wonderful essay on Bernie Sanders. Very timely, as I (and many others) get ready to caucus on Tuesday!


However, we will be left with a fresh clean whiff of honesty hanging in the air and a memory of his hands waving over his free spirited hair.

This is the unfortunate truth. Bad timing. Hopefully his principles, integrity, decency along with his message will energize the nation’s youth who in the future will insist on taking real actions to address real problems. This is our reason to continue to support Bernie.

We know Bernie can’t fix everything himself. He is the only candidate that authentically uses the word “we”. He actually says that we all have to get to work, pay some taxes so we can then pay for the things that we have been putting off. I get excited when I see this old duffer surrounded by a sea of young faces. I get really excited knowing these young faces are being motivated to address our nation’s challenges with the principles and purpose expressed by Bernie Sanders. I will never give up on Bernie’s message that big money has too much influence.

Right off the bat I need to say that the cost of the programs Bernie is pushing are doomed in this period of government austerity. For this reason I believe he is unelectable based on the promises he is making at this moment in time.

His programs could increase government spending by as much as forty trillion dollars over 10 years. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate that has presented an economic plan that reduces our debt and finances her promises. Her programs however only prevent us from going in reverse.

The proposed plans of Trump, Rubio, and Cruz cut taxes so radically that that they would add from 8 to 12 trillion dollars to our debt over 10 years of prosperity. In Rubio’s plan Mitt Romney would pay no federal taxes. The plans do not address election reforms nor our serious national goals to curb global warming, health care costs, inequality, childhood poverty and hunger, etc. etc. We will not have funded our crumbling infrastructure and cities, education, medical and scientific resources, environment, and so many other needs. It does seem strange that in all the Republican debates none of these problems were discussed. We are promised an enlarged and expensive military,

privatized social security, corporately directed health care, and more billionaires.

In contrast Bernie’s plan actually starts to look pretty good when you start to think things through. Bernie’s spending does come with an increase in taxes for everyone. Long term we cannot continue not to have single payer universal health care, take the influence of big money out of politics, help with the burden of debt for young people starting out in life, and a robust government that provides jobs and opportunity while tackling our common challenges. Our citizens’ economic health will be better following Bernie’s ideas, if not his plans.

Non-economic differences between Bernie and the remaining Republican troika are very stark.

Unlike Donald he is not likely to delight in the thought of strategically bombing the families of enemy combatants.

It seems unfair to go on and use Rubio, Trump and Cruz to make a contrast for any legitimate candidate for our highest office. Bernie’s deportment should be a model for young politicians.

When Mark’s mother and my politic thoughts were forming, we were both Republicans. At that time Republicans, ideas of what works would be in many cases similar to what Danish socialists are currently doing .

Some things we believed:

Together we could make things better. WW2 proved this.

Greed causes a lot of harm. The depression proved this.

All things were possible. Look at our parents.

War was hell and should be avoided.

Some things we have learned.

Increase in taxes most often leads to increases in employment and wages. We think this a good thing. Postponing taxes leads to debt.

The GOP has shifted from standing up for business to standing up for wealth.

Money seldom trickles down. It goes up to power.

Both parties have not governed responsibly. They have not served posterity as well as they have served their group.

Imagine a time when the country was deep in debt from a world war. We were recovering with massive manufacturing capacity intact. The postwar world was still reeling. America took on the task of helping the world recover, including former enemies.

Racism was present in all communities Women were not considered equal with men. We were fearful of communists. We were fed up with war and the military establishment, but the four freedoms still rang in our heads. Freedom of Religion, Freedon of speech, Freedom from fear and Freedom from want.

Most Americans believed that a good life for their families was certainly possible. We could all afford health care and the doctor might even stop by your home and check up on you on his way home. We paid what we could afford. Medicine was more a profession and less a business. Free education was available that was sufficient to get good employment. College cost a little more. Employment most often was working for someone you knew. The job came with lifetime security and a retirement plan. You and your boss saw each other at PTO meetings where you discussed common problems. Coming out of the war men and women were used to working hard for the common good. They knew the importance of everyone doing their share and when they saw that there were some that where taking more of their share it made them mad.. Even Ike, our Republican President was outraged and thought 90% tax on profits wasn’t enough. We had a real distain for greed. Vast infrastructure projects were built to serve our expanding economy The political system worked to provide the funds. Those working for wages could own a home, some stocks and sometimes a cabin up north. One had a sense of confidence that a lifetime of security for one’s family was a real possibility.

So much has changed. We have had a slow erosion of our promise. Slowly we stopped including Freedon from Want and Freedom from Fear from the American dream.

Richard Nixon changed Phyllis and my political lives. His transparent appeal to our fear of others began with his callous political use of “the silent majority”. He governed better than he campaigned. Ronald Reagan was a master politician. He ran against all the Republicans ideas we had liked in our youth while deriding those in want. He also governed better than he messaged. Their rhetoric worked for their purposes and can still be heard in today’s GOP campaigns.

No wonder we were Republicans then and for Bernie now. He reminds us that we count for something

In the end Bernie will be able to hold his head up in a country that at this moment isn’t looking for such an authentic man. We kids noticed and have hope.

When the primaries are over there is only one candidate whom I could walk up to and say. “Well done.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Trump Time?

The joke is over.

It appears that at the very least, Donald Trump has a good and realistic chance to win the Republican nomination.  The Washington Post sees his route to the nomination as relatively clear.  Especially if both Rubio and Cruz stay in the race (and as long as they are locked in a battle for second, they will), Trump will likely continue to win the most delegates as the primaries continue.

If he does, and Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Donald Trump very well could be president.  This is an outsider's year, and Hillary Clinton will never ever ever be an outsider.

Establishment Republicans are frustrated of course, and unsure what to do beyond funding Rubio.

Of course, it is that same establishment that created the atmosphere Trump has flourished in. They have promoted a pervasively negative ethic: That government is bad, and the people in it are bad.  It worked; millions of Trump voters are convinced of exactly that.

A Trump nomination certainly is not a foregone conclusion, of course, and a Trump presidency might not be as terrible as some fear. Minnesotans I have talked to recognize that the state did not fall apart when Jesse Ventura was governor-- in fact, his independence from either party created some good opportunities.

There is still, of course, a lot of this election cycle still ahead of us.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016



Hello, fellow travelers! I have good news-- my dad has agreed to write on the blog this Thursday, on his support of Bernie Sanders. I look forward to his perspective (which I largely share).  

In the meantime, I urge you to check out his own blog, which mostly has to do with the jazz scene in Detroit. His latest post starts with Yogi Berra and works its way to the musicians who will be playing this week. I love the photos he has taken, including the one above.

Here is part of what he has to say:

The decision in life to live life on the go isn’t always dramatic. It can be a subtle change in one note or timing. It is just changing your routine. It can be a simple pause. Sometimes we can change by taking the straight road and just speeding up. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


You had me at "Clickity-clack"

Maybe I was pushing it by having the theme of haiku Friday as "chores," but I loved this one from MKS, which echoes my own experience:

Our yard is quite small.
Our mower is a reel one.
Soft clickity-clack.

 As always, too, Renee came through:

Her hands loved the dust
But mostly what she uncovered
With an ancient shirt

A photograph of
A baby's toothless smile,a
Depression glass sugar

Bowl from Aunt Ida
A single mother in the 30s
A tiny book of

Burns her ex-husband
Gave her it's red cover told
What might have been,this

Is why I cry when
I dust,remembering,remembering
My tears are like wine.

[Note to IPLawGuy: No, you don't get credit for that!]

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Lent

I suppose it is a telling statement that the celebration before Lent (Mardi Gras) has more cultural significant for modern Americans than Lent itself does-- we retain the excess, but leave behind the season of sacrifice.  

It is the last part of Lent that has the deepest meaning for me, that week (Holy Week) between Palm Sunday and Easter.  I'm thinking, though, about how to mark the rest of the season. Any ideas?

Saturday, February 20, 2016


This week in clemency n' stuff

As those who follow the Razor know, I have been trying hard to make the Constitution's Pardon Power a principled tool to reduce the incarceration of those over-sentenced for narcotics.

It's been, at times, a discouraging task.  However, I have some great collaborators and rays of hope now and then. This week I had a few key meetings in Washington and New York, and hope that we can keep the pressure on. There is a lot to hope for, even with the challenges of bureaucracy and delay that we have faced.

On the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia, I had a little writing spree which resulted in this piece which appeared Thursday in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and this one which came out yesterday in the Waco Herald Tribune. It seems that I feel compelled to publish in all my hometown papers, or maybe just those with the word "Tribune" in their title...

Friday, February 19, 2016


Haiku Friday: The chore I love

Isn't there something, at least one thing, that you love to do around the house? People often talk about the chores they hate, but I know there are some that we love-- or at least like better than the others. Let's haiku about that this week.

Here, I will go first:

Cleaning out gutters--
Handfuls of wet, icky goo
So satisfying.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: IPLawGuy makes the case for Kasich!

After the success of last week's post by the Waco Farmer, I asked IPLawGuy to follow up with his own thoughts. I was especially intrigued by his support for John Kasich, who I think is one of the more appealing Republicans.  For those who don't know, the DC-based IPLawGuy knows a thing or two about politics. Among other things, he worked for six years on Capitol Hill for John McCain, and you learn a thing or two doing that. 

On March 1, I will vote for John Kasich in the Virginia Republican Primary.  I’ve already donated money to his campaign and next week I will volunteer some time as well.   As careful readers of The Razor know, I am a Republican, so this is not some sort clever protest “crossing of the aisles” to make a statement.   My allegiance to the GOP has been sorely tested over the years as too many of its elected officials and candidates have focused on issues or advocated ideas that I either do not think are important or that I fear are just plain wrong.

Fortunately, John Kasich focuses his campaign on economic growth, reining in the Federal Deficit and a strong, but not adventuresome, foreign policy.  He advocates investment in both “bricks and mortar” and cyber infrastructure.  As a member of Congress he served on the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years.  He’s not a foreign policy idealist or neophyte. He knows we can neither be the policeman for the world nor a nation of ostriches that close our eyes to Russian aggression, Islamic terrorism and Chinese expansionism.

Moreover, Kasich has a track record both as a Governor of a diverse state and as an influential member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as Chair of the Budget Committee.  As Governor of Ohio he has spurred job growth, brought the unemployment rate down to its lowest level in well over a decade and built up the state’s constitutionally mandated “rainy day” savings fund. 

Kasich’s campaign is not based on far-fetched and impossible to execute ideas like “closing the border” to all Mexicans and Muslims, or handing out free college education to any and all, but rather on achievable and reasonable policy changes.

Razorites will also recall that I believe executive experience is an essential quality for a President.  In general, successful Presidents have had executive experience as Governors (FDR, Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt) or in the case of Eisenhower, as a General.  A President must lead with ideas and inspiration and must delegate to those who will make the ideas happen.  Being President means working with Congress.  What too many Presidential candidates, of both parties, don’t make clear is that the President does not MAKE laws.  The President executes laws.  Congress makes the laws.  And in many cases the laws that Congress makes are not ones the President necessarily likes.  Someone who served in Congress (for more than 4 years!!!  See Cruz, Ted and Obama, Barack) and held a Committee Chair will have a much clearer understanding of how to deal with the lawmakers.

A positive approach is also key.   Again, we think of our successful Presidents as positive, happy people.  Not as irritated scolds.  (see, Carter, Jimmy)  Temperament matters.  A Lot.  Kasich has that in spades. He’s a happy, positive guy.

And unlike so many “conservatives” who make much of their Christian ideals, Kasich puts his beliefs into action.  He pushed for and signed into law an Earned Income Tax Credit for Oho and has worked to increase treatment as opposed to incarceration for those suffering from the crippling disease of addiction.  Most notably, unlike some conservative Governors, Kasich took the Obamacare Medicaid money.  He has said that he would work to repeal Obamacare, but for now it’s the law of the land. Not taking the money would be irresponsible and more importantly, heartless and cruel.

This is a guy who cares about ideas and about people.

John Kasich is the best candidate for President of either party.  Please go to his website www.johnkasich.comand make a donation.  If you live in a state with an upcoming Republican primary, I urge you to vote for him as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Scene 17, in which I can't make a drink

There is this one moment that I re-live over and over.  I'll be at some event, and people are ordering drinks. They are confident and sophisticated, and look over their shoulder as they say something like "I'll have a Rocky Top, and keep it light on the fizz." The bartender will nod knowingly, and get to work.

I never have any idea what they are talking about, and when it comes to my turn, I'll reach for a beer or point at what someone else is having. It's not that I don't drink mixed drinks; I just am not very good at it, and don't do it often.  I suppose it seemed like somewhere in life people learn how to do that, and I was off doing something else. In whole, that might have been a good thing.

Does anyone else have this challenge?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Notable Ads: Ted Cruz

I'm with the 99 members of the Senate who can't stand Ted Cruz, but I have to give him some evil-genius props for this shot-for-shot remake of the famous Office Space scene:

Monday, February 15, 2016


Poems o' the British

What a week it was for the Razor! First, both the Farmer and commenters knocked it out of the park with a fabulous discussion of the Presidential election. The whole thing is worth a read.

Great haiku, too, on the subject of the British. I had a hunch that Renee had something good in her, and I was right:

Fleeing icy
Fingers of rain,I enter
Clarinda's Tea Room.

The Bard of Scots regards
Me from the wall,salivates
At the sight of

Cucumber sandwich
Scone rife with Devonshire cream
Strawberry jam.

Clarinda"s grave
Is on the way home,she whom
Burns loved.I leave red rose.

Christine turns out to be an Anglophile, as well, and this was my favorite of hers:

Who was Hadrian...
and why does he have a wall
rambling east to west?

I think Jill Scoggins poem was inspired by actual events:

Unclaimed luggage at
Heathrow? ‘We just blow it up,’
said bobbies, laughing.

As was IPLawGuy's:

Wrong side of the road
I drove over Hyde Park and
Into Harrod's. Oops.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Justice Scalia

Today I am giving the sermon at Colonial Church here in Edina at both the 9 & 10:45 services, so I suppose I should be focused on that.  

I am not, though. I'm strangely affected by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a jurist I often disagreed with.  There are three things I greatly admire about him.

First, he was often surprising to those who viewed him as simply being a right-wing functionary (that would be Justice Alito).  On issues I cared about, in sentencing and criminal law, he often sided with defendants against the government. He wrote the opinion in the case I won in the Supreme Court, in fact. That was Spears v. United States, where the Court ruled that judges could categorically reject the sentencing guidelines' 100-1 ration between crack and powder cocaine and reversed the 8th Circuit. Here is part of what he wrote, in his typically compelling style:

The dissent says that “Apprendi, Booker, Rita, Gall, and Kimbrough have given the lower courts a good deal to digest over a relatively short period.” Post, at 3. True enough—and we should therefore promptly remove from the menu the Eighth Circuit’s offering, a smuggled-in dish that is indigestible. 

Second, his faith guided him in much of his personal life. He had nine children, which he referred to as the result of "Catholic Roulette."

Finally, he was a remarkably personable man who often treated those he disagreed with well. His good relationship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg is well known (and a tribute to them both). He was also a mentor to a stable of remarkable clerks, including my collaborator Rachel Barkow. The Observer just reprinted a great reflection she wrote in 2006- give it a read.

He had a passion and love for his job that was visible from counsel table, and I appreciated that. If only we all had that in our vocation!

Saturday, February 13, 2016


So, who is this Henry Kissinger?

If you are interested in the election, I would highly recommend last Thursday's great post by the Waco Farmer and the comments (25ish, so far) that follow, which you can see here.  In that strand, IPLawGuy points out how odd it was that the Democratic candidates were fighting about Henry Kissinger:

The fact the HENRY Kissinger came in the Dem debate at all is somewhat troubling. Hillary would be considered OLD, OLD, OLD in any other election year. But Bernie is 74! Not only is the first Jew to ever win a Presidential Primary, he's the OLDEST candidate to ever win a primary, blowing away John McCain's record by 3 years.

But since Bernie and Hillary both became legal voters before a majority of American were even born, Kissinger and Vietnam were burned into their consciousness. KISSINGER left office 40 YEARS AGO! And the actions that Bernie deplores, the Cambodian incursion, for example, took place even earlier. This would be like Reagan and Carter debating over whether FDR's pre-war foreign policy team gave him the right advice in the late 30's. Or Nixon and Kennedy arguing over the Versailles Treaty.

Certainly good questions for historians, but TOTALLY IRRELEVANT in 1980, 1960 and today.


Friday, February 12, 2016


Haiku Friday: The British

My family is English on both sides, which may account for the wacky eccentric streak we bear.  Bad teeth, allergies, pale... yeah, that's me.

Still, the British have made some positive contributions to the world. Shakespeare, sure, and the sandwich (though it appears they aren't good at making them any more).

So, let's haiku about the British! Perhaps you have been to Britain, and have a good story, or just were fascinated by Princess Diana. 

Here, I will go first:

The room was so cold!
And then I found the coin box
That started the heat.

Now it is your turn! Just make the first line five syllables, then seven for the second and five for the third. 

Oh, and write in English. Unless you are the medievalist-- he is on his own.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Thoughts from the Waco Farmer

I am blessed to have friends who often are more articulate than I am, including people like IPLawGuy, CraigA, and Waco Friend, among others. Fortunately, they often represent viewpoints and positions different than my own.

One of those friends is the Waco Farmer, who graciously offers up the following reflection in the wake of the New Hampshire primary, and invites further discussion:

A Few Notes on the Early Stages of an American Election, Part II.

Pa said, I’m tired
O ’waitin' on Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt.
Damn tired o‘ waitin’ on Roosevelt.
I can’t git a job
And I can’t git no grub.
Backbone and navel’s
Doin' the belly-rub—
A-waitin' on Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt.
And a lot o' other folks
What’s hungry and cold
Done stopped believin'
What they been told
By Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt—

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
~~Abraham Lincoln
Like the spouse who listened to his partner assure him for decades that she would leave one day if he did not change, the GOP and Democratic Party establishment woke up yesterday morning alone, and they cannot understand why or how it happened.

For decades (maybe centuries, for this is an essential element of the American project), the electorate has consistently voiced an unmistakable unhappiness with the “establishment.”  In my lifetime we have sent myriad outsiders and reformers to Washington promising a new tone, hope and change, and a revolution to empower the people.  All to no avail.  The voters of New Hampshire (perhaps as a bellwether) sent a message loud and clear: We Are Done!

A Few Stray Exit Poll data points stick in my mind: over 90-percent of Democratic voters who valued honesty as the most important quality in a President picked Bernie.  And some huge percentage of Republican voters expressed a sense that the Republican Party had betrayed them.  “We Are Done!”  “We have done stopped believing what we’ve been told.”

Where do we go from here?  

I have thought for some time that the key to winning this election would reside in channeling the anger of the Trump supporter and the frustration of the Bernie supporter into a programmatic plan of action in plain but practical political language. But maybe not. Today is a day in which I have a lot more questions than I have answers.

Where do we go from here?  I am all ears.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


The Razor would like to apologize...

David Best wrote yesterday, noting that one of his comments had gone into limbo. I checked, and it turned out he was right. His comment, and lot of others (including some excellent points by Waco Farmer and IPLawGuy) were "awaiting moderation." Here is what happened… last summer, I was deluged with spam comments on the Razor. I had two choices: either require one of those "prove you aren't a robot" tests (which I often fail), or limit the number of posts to which comments could be made. I limited comments to just two days back, which was probably too restrictive.  I have loosened it up now, to seven days.


If you are wondering what the spam is like, here is one particularly intriguing example, which appears to be promoting a Temple which helps stalkers:

Hello everyone am on this blog to testifying about the goodness of EDUDU ZADSON TEMPLE in my life for helping me bring back my lost love in a space of 48 hours. I saw comments of how he helps people amend broken relationship and bring back lost love and decicded to let him help me also when i lost my ex 5 months ago. To cut it all short it is the evidence of his fast results that reuslted to me testifying about his good works. If you are in such situation, cry no more but contact Dr Zadson on and experience an amazing turn around in your situation... on Haiku Friday: Breakfast food!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


It's New Hampshire Day!

I love the way the primaries force politicians to pay attentions to states they would usually avoid: Iowa and New Hampshire, in that it forces them to do retail politics rather than rely on media.

On the other hand, I don't like the way the prominence of those two states warps the political outcomes we see. Both are predominantly white states, which means that we see little discussion or race when the candidates are there-- and few new initiatives in that area. Also, it creates strange benefits for those states. For example, Iowa is a big corn ethanol producer, and candidates usually become great enthusiasts for federal ethanol mandates before the Iowa caucuses. Ted Cruz was an exception. He (correctly, I think) opposed the ethanol mandates and subsidies, and still won the Republican causes in Iowa.

Watching the candidates trudge through snow, I thought they might prefer that the first primaries be held in Florida and Texas...

Monday, February 08, 2016


Those are some shoes!

I suppose I should have figured that women are more interested in shoes than men... and it brought in some great poems! Like this one from Renee:

Leopardskin mules,Dad
And I saw in Edina.
He said,"Buy at J.C Penné."

Then sent cash to "Buy those
Darling shoes." Do you see now
Why I'll never throw them away?

Christine had this:

So buttery soft,
hand crafted, finest leather
purchased in Brazil

Came in a felt bag
Worn on special occasions
Re-soled many times.

And I was very intrigued by Amy's bargain-hunting skills:

Kate Spade spring pumps on
Consignment, twenty-two bucks.
Oh, those kitten-heeled

Gems, purple-flowered,,
Low-heeled; felt like royalty,
Took the edge off work.

Meanwhile, the Medievalist held down the fort for us guys, and I think I have seen these shoes:

Black with a white swoosh,
Comfortable tennis shoes,
To Iceland and back.

But.... why did a Spanish Medievalist go to Iceland?

Sunday, February 07, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Quiet Heroes

Like many others, I was saddened to hear about the resignation of Deborah Leff as the United States Pardon Attorney. She is a remarkable person, and a quiet hero.

One of my problems with American culture-- and one that tears against the Christian faith-- is its celebration of "heroes" who have become rich or famous or both.  That is contrary to what we see in the Bible, where the heroes rarely are celebrated, rich, or famous (at least in their own time).  The people Jesus cites as worthy are the widow who gives her only coin to the poor, the Centurion who shows faith, and the Good Samaritan, among the many others who were unheralded but for his noticing their efforts.  Our contemporary faith is lousy at recognizing those quiet heroes (who often are not Christian, and rarely are rich or famous).  Instead our eyes are drawn to shiny objects created and propelled by a media with its own agenda.

Debby Leff toiled in a difficult place in adverse circumstances, according to NPR. She did so with a generous heart and firm will.  She may never be portrayed as a hero in the press, but that does not change a truth too few will see.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Looking good for the Broncos...

Friday, February 05, 2016


Haiku Friday: Shoes

Yeah, you got 'em. You wear them. And you probably care about them more than you let people know.

My favorite pair of shoes gave up on me after years of dutiful service, and I miss them.  Here is my ode to those shoes:

They came in a box
From Texas, a great surprise
Note: "You need these, Mark"

Joy Tull (the sender) was right about that.

Now, you go-- haiku about some shoes. Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: What now?

This coming Tuesday, New Hampshire will host the first Presidential primary in the country. Last Monday, of course, we saw the Iowa caucuses play out, with some interesting results:

-- Ted Cruz won on the Republican side, while Donald J. Trump (when did he add the "J," and isn't that a little too much like Homer Simpson?) came in second. Surprisingly close at 3rd was Marco Rubio.

-- Far behind, with less than 3% of the vote was Jeb Bush. It was estimated that he spent about $2,800 in Iowa for each vote he received. Aren't these Republican big spenders tired of their money going down the drain, with this on top of the Romney loss in 2012?

-- On the Democratic side, it was a virtual tie between Sanders and Clinton (with Clinton ahead by a miniscule 0.3%).  Many people are seeing it as effectively a win for Sanders.

-- Martin O'Malley, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum have now dropped out of the race.

What will happen in New Hampshire? Here are my predictions:

-- Sanders and Trump will win.
-- Rubio will be second.
-- Bush will be far behind, and then drop out.
-- There will be a muddle between Kasich, Christie, and Carson.

What do you think?

[and yes, that is a real Ted Cruz coloring book, available at Barnes and Noble. Also available: The Donald J. Trump Off-Color Coloring book.]

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


The New Pardon Attorney....

This afternoon, I was on NPR's "All Things Considered" talking about clemency.  What I did not know was that by the time the story came out there would be a new US Pardon Attorney announced. It is Bob Zausmer, a prosecutor from Philadelphia. That's him on the left above; what I just noticed is that my law school roommate, Mike Schwartz, is on the far right in the same picture (which is from the NPR story about clemency and  Zausmer).  It's a small world....


What's up with clemency?

This morning, I should be on NPR talking about clemency-- it is an unusual week for that subject. The Pardon Attorney, Deborah Leff, announced that she was leaving effective at the end of January, but no replacement has been named. I really have no idea what is going on with that-- it is a mystery being closely guarded within the administration.

The last year of the Obama administration is one in which he can do great good, in this and other areas.  The attention of the political reporters will be elsewhere as the election contest rages on, and the scrutiny will be lessened.

There are simple steps he could take to fix the clemency process, as I have described before.  If he doesn't, I expect that there will be a moment in ten years when he regrets that choice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Iowa Recap with Guest Blogger Grar the Giant Panda

Some of you may remember Washington insider Grar the Panda, who so famously ran for president back in 2008.  I asked for his comments on the Iowa caucuses of yesterday.

Grar is Panda of Washington. Washington is bad for people, and Iowa is a good place for election. If Grar were running this year, he would say that lazy bad government is problem with USA.  Here, look at this picture of a US government employee bear at "work":

He is a goof-off! Killing time, leaning on his shovel. And then, if he messes up, it is not his fault, because he is government bureaucrat who is never at fault: "Only you can stop forest fires" he says. Yeah, well, then what is that shovel for, lazybones? One would think it is for stopping forest fires. Oh, wait, no, it is so you can get a good rest instead of doing any work.

Grar has decided to run for president again. Send money to Grar.

Monday, February 01, 2016


The basement

Renee did a lot of good work last week, but the one that struck me deepest was this:

It's basement proved a
Safe Haven to young lovers,still--
Little Brother lurked.

That pretty much paints a picture, doesn't it? I love the image of the brother lurking.

No one made out in the basement of the house I grew up in-- there was too much stuff in there. Still, it was a fascinating place (and still is, in fact).  There is a lot of art, and old wine, and record albums and forgotten projects and sports equipment (misc.).  It's an amazing place to explore, and that has been one of my hobbies for the past four decades.

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