Wednesday, November 30, 2022


World Cup Action!

 If you haven't been following along at home, let me tell you-- the World Cup has been pretty interesting (especially if you are a fan of 0-0 ties). 

The first round is a round-robin within groups of four teams. The US was in a group with Iran, England and Wales (yes, they put two parts of the UK together in one group).  Through three games, the US only gave up one goal, in a 1-1 draw with Wales. They then tied England in a 0-0 classic, and made it through to the next round by beating Iran 1-0 yesterday. Highlights here:

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


At the cinema!


IPLawGuy, who is usually at the cutting edge of culture, tipped me off to the upcoming film "Cocaine Bear." He called me from Interstate 66 from his unrestored 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, which has has made into a "convertible" by removing the top with a reciprocating saw, so it was a little hard to hear, but apparently this film is about a bear that goes on a murderous rampage after, well, ingesting a LOT of cocaine. It's a true story.

It's the same hackneyed story we've all heard before: Narcotics trafficker jumps out of a plane with a faulty parachute and dies. However, he threw a satchel full of cocaine out of the plane first. and a bear ate it. Then the bear stayed up all night. 

I, for one, am tired of bears being portrayed as drug-crazed psychopaths who will just  eat an entire suitcase full of cocaine and go on deadly rampages. The truth is that most bears about now are hibernating in a nice den with a lot of snacks and some blankets. 

Sure, that makes for a boring movie. But isn't it time for some realism in our films?

Monday, November 28, 2022


Poetry of thanks

 There was some great work this week!

Megan Willome once again proved she is an actual poet:

Thanksgiving without
plans turned into a double
Friendsgiving. Glory!

My dad's was good and true:

We formed a circle
in the kitchen and gave thanks.
In the dining room

We all overate,
talked too loud and wished we had
brought our camera.

As was the Medievalist:

For the air I breathe,
For the languages that I speak,
For people I know.

Christine is thankful for a small but important thing:

The Carolina
Crud has finally left us..
Residual cough.

Sunday, November 27, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Victory!


Those of you who know me will know that I thrive on the change of seasons. Here in Minnesota we are turning towards 3-5 months of real winter, which means we are going to need our famous snowplows like Betty Whiteout (pictured above). 

One marker of the season is the annual Michigan-Ohio State game, which I got to watch with my dad, a lifelong Michigan fan (even though he didn't go there; he went to Cornell).  It was a great game and Michigan won 45-23, which qualifies as a shellacking for them-- though really it was a pretty close game most of the way. I loved seeing Michigan win, in part because Ohio State is the locus of evil, but mostly because they don't do that a lot in this game. 

After the game, which was in Columbus, the Wolverines looked pretty happy even though they were in hostile territory. The season isn't over-- they will have at least two more games, the league championship and then a bowl game-- but this was a huge threshold crossed.

People cared a lot about the outcome, which of course doesn't mean anything at all except for the importance we attach to it. Many of us just decide to care a lot about this weird game played between college students, and thus it becomes important.

Not that it's a bad thing. It's good to care about things, of course, to believe in them and hope for an outcome. 

One appeal of sports, I think, is that we know so clearly the outcome we desire-- for our team to win! The rest of life isn't like that. If you ask most people what they want the outcome of their life to be, you probably will get a puzzled look or a request for some time to think about it. Oddly, we tend not to define that very often. 

Some people, of course, will say they want the outcome of being rich or of being happy. Neither one is very deep, of course, or lasting. 

So what is it, the outcome you want? 

Saturday, November 26, 2022



 People who follow soccer closely often say that many of the "most exciting" matches end up as a 0-0 tie. I'm not sure I buy it, but they probably know more than I do. Anyways, there are the "highlights," most of which are guys shooting the ball into the stands:

Friday, November 25, 2022


Haiku Friday: What are you thankful for?


I hope you had a great Thanksgiving-- it was a great one here with my parents and other family gobbling up a great meal.

So this is a fair question: what are you thankful for? Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

So many people
Have shown me kindness, even
When undeserved.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2022




This is the 17th Thanksgiving since I started this blog. And every year, one way or another, I say the same thing: that this is my favorite holiday.

I love the simple theology of it-- gratitude. That's something that turns us towards joy and humility, and those are both very good things.

I love the things that define it: gathering with the people we love, cooking and eating together, a long walk on a short day.

I love the fact that somehow no marketer has found a way to commercialize it beyond the traditional foods we eat.

I love you all, and the fact that for 17 years now I have been able to write pretty much whatever I want, confident that someone will read it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


South Pacific

 My point yesterday-- that hate is taught-- wasn't exactly original. Among other places it was well-articulated in the musical "South Pacific":

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


The cost of hate


On Saturday, a man full of hatred who had been taught that drag shows were evil killed 5 people and injured 17 by shooting up the Club Q in Colorado Springs. 

There is a lot wrong with this. But the fact that young people are taught to hate is one we need to take note of. 

If you watch Fox News for a couple days, you are likely to see stories about drag shows or transgendered people that describe them as some kind of threat to our society. Words like "awful" and "despicable," and "disgusting" are used to describe them. I know this because I actually do watch Fox News (or listen to it on satellite radio). It's bizarre-- our nation faces serious challenges, but drag shows are not one of them.

Teaching hate is reprehensible.  At some point, people need to wake up to that.

Monday, November 21, 2022


Poems of the outdoors


My Dad wrote a haiku that is so true. The picture above shows why I would do this-- there is no light like that coming from those you love. Here is his poem:
Mark would go outdoors
and look in at the warmth of
our Christmas dinner.

Christine wrote, too:
Morning, late autumn,
Trees stand bare against the sky
Early light, sun rise.
As did Desiree:
Outside the classroom
Through my window, I see where
I wish I could be. 
And the Medievalist:
Long absent cool air,
And floods the space around me,
Take off my jacket.

I loved this one from Craig:
Gather morning press,
Moon and stars in late fall sky
Light the dark driveway.
And we got an intriguing anonymous entry: 
The dying sun at far
The shining star staring at her beauty
Talked to her with compassion. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Truer than true


When my dad paints someone, he doesn't really paint all of them-- there are parts of them that kind of disappear into the whole. And yet... even without every detail played out, you can have a real sense of who that person is. In fact, it could be that this allows you to even better understand the person-- what my dad calls it being "truer than true." 

In our society, sometimes we seem to expect to know everything about someone-- that it should be online, that they should have every detail sketched out, and we don't trust them until we have that (if, even then, we do). There is probably a cost to that, part of it being that we don't ever get to what is truer than true about that person. 

Perfect can be the enemy of love-- or at least a distraction. (1 Corinthians 13).

And for some, that same instinct-- that everything has to be explained-- is the barrier to faith. If there is an unanswered question, it all falls apart. And at what cost! Because there, of all places, we need to look towards what is truer than true.

Saturday, November 19, 2022


It's got a vibe


Friday, November 18, 2022


Haiku Friday: Outdoors


A few nights ago I was driving home through the three inches of fresh snow we have here in Minnesota. It was stunningly beautiful. I parked and walked a bit in a neighborhood I didn't know (Minneapolis is like that-- you can just happen upon a lovely place). I didn't miss summer. But I remember it well.

Let's haiku about the outdoors; a broad category, but that makes it all the better!

Here, I will go first:

The low light at dusk
Draws me outside to soak up
Creation's colors.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2022


The End (?) of US News Law School Rankings


For decades, the US News rankings have had an outsized impact on law schools-- students and others treated the rankings like they really meant something, and that favored some schools over others for not-so-valid reasons.

I have taught at two law schools. One is a much better school, with far stronger instructors and sense of community. The other, no so much-- but that one was ranked far higher. I knew it was backwards.

Meanwhile, my own alma mater has been #1 in the rankings since I was there. BUT... now it will all come apart, and Yale Law-- which has everything to gain from the rankings-- led the way. Yesterday, they announced they were pulling out of the rankings, and Harvard Law quickly made the same decision. It's hard to see that rankings will mean much with the top schools pulling out. 

It took them long enough! I called for Yale to drop out in 2013.

Here is how Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken explained it:

For three decades, U.S. News & World Report, a for-profit magazine, has ranked the educational quality of law schools across the country. Since the very beginning, Yale Law School has taken the top spot every year. Yet, that distinction is not one that we advertise or use as a lodestar to chart our course. In fact, in recent years, we have invested significant energy and capital in important initiatives that make our law school a better place but perversely work to lower our scores. That’s because the U.S. News rankings are profoundly flawed — they disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession. We have reached a point where the rankings process is undermining the core commitments of the legal profession. As a result, we will no longer participate.

It’s entirely understandable that many schools feel compelled to adhere to a commercial magazine’s preferences, as the rankings are taken seriously by applicants, employers, and alumni. But rankings are useful only when they follow sound methodology and confine their metrics to what the data can reasonably capture — factors I’ve described in my own research on election administration. Over the years, however, U.S. News has refused to meet those conditions despite repeated calls from law school deans to change. Instead, the magazine continues to take data — much of it supplied by the law schools solely to U.S. News — and applies a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education. While I sincerely believe that U.S. News operates with the best of intentions, it faces a nearly impossible task, ranking 192 law schools with a small set of one-size-fits-all metrics that cannot provide an accurate picture of such varied institutions. Its approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, but stands squarely in the way of progress.

One of the most troubling aspects of the U.S. News rankings is that it discourages law schools from providing critical support for students seeking public interest careers and devalues graduates pursuing advanced degrees. Because service is a touchstone of our profession, Yale Law School is proud to award many more public interest fellowships per student than any of our peers. These fellowships have enabled some of our finest students to serve their communities and the nation on our dime. Even though our fellowships are highly selective and pay comparable salaries to outside fellowships, U.S. News appears to discount these invaluable opportunities to such an extent that these graduates are effectively classified as unemployed. When it comes to brilliant students training themselves for a scholarly life or a wide-ranging career by pursuing coveted Ph.D. and master’s degrees, U.S. News does the same. Both of these tracks are a venerable tradition at Yale Law School, and these career choices should be valued and encouraged throughout legal education.

In addition, the rankings exclude a crucial form of support for public interest careers — loan forgiveness programs — when calculating student debt loads. Loan forgiveness programs matter enormously to students interested in service, as they partially or entirely forgive the debts of students taking low-paying public interest jobs. But the rankings exclude them when calculating debt even though they can entirely erase a student’s loans. In short, when law schools devote resources to encouraging students to pursue public interest careers, U.S. News mischaracterizes them as low-employment schools with high debt loads. That backward approach discourages law schools throughout the country from supporting students who dream of a service career.

The U.S. News rankings also discourage law schools from admitting and providing aid to students with enormous promise who may come from modest means. Today, 20% of a law school’s overall ranking is median LSAT/GRE scores and GPAs. While academic scores are an important tool, they don’t always capture the full measure of an applicant. This heavily weighted metric imposes tremendous pressure on schools to overlook promising students, especially those who cannot afford expensive test preparation courses. It also pushes schools to use financial aid to recruit high-scoring students. As a result, millions of dollars of scholarship money now go to students with the highest scores, not the greatest need. At a moment when concerns about economic equity stand at the center of our national dialogue, only two law schools in the country continue to give aid based entirely on need — Harvard and Yale. Just this year, Yale Law School doubled down on that commitment, launching a tuition-free scholarship for students who come from families below the poverty line. These students overcame nearly insurmountable odds to get to Yale, and their stories are nothing short of inspiring. Regrettably, U.S. News has made it difficult for other law schools to eliminate the financial barriers that deter talented minds from joining our profession.

Finally, the way U.S. News accounts for student debt further undercuts the efforts of law schools to recruit the most capable students into the profession. To its credit, U.S. News has recognized that debt can deter excellent students from becoming lawyers and has tried to help by giving weight to a metric that rests on the average debt of graduating students and the percentage of students who graduate with debt. Yet a metric based on debt alone can backfire, incentivizing schools to admit students with the means to pay tuition over students with substantial financial need. A far better measure is how much financial aid a law school provides to its students, rewarding schools that admit students from low-income backgrounds and support them along the way. That crucial measure receives inadequate weight in the rankings.

The people most harmed by this ill-conceived system are applicants who aspire to public service work and those from low-income backgrounds. They’re trying to make a sensible choice about their future, and law schools want to do right by them. Unfortunately, the rankings system has made it increasingly difficult for law schools to provide robust support for students who serve their communities, to admit students from low-income backgrounds, and to target financial aid to the students most in need. Although we will not submit data to U.S. News going forward, each year Yale Law School will provide prospective students with data in a public, transparent, and useful form to ensure they have the information they need to decide which law school is right for them.

Leaders in legal education should do everything they can to ensure students of all backgrounds have the support and resources they need to enter our profession and contribute to society. Granting exclusive access to a flawed commercial rankings system is counterproductive to the mission of this profession and the core values of Yale Law School. While I do not take this decision lightly, now is the time for us to walk away from the rankings in order to pursue our own path forward as we work to advance legal education.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


The Announcement


So... it looks like Donald Trump is running for president again, to the surprise of very few people. There were some weird parts of the very long announcement. At the start, as music plays, he just kind of stands there and slowly rotates from side to side. Then, at the start of his talk, he says that at the end of his four-year administration the nation was "at its pinnacle" and that "everybody was doing great." But... what I remember of the end of his administration was a nation racked by a pandemic and skyrocketing crime, while the economy teetered and insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol.
What will it mean? Here are some preliminary thoughts:

1)  The press will probably once again cover everything Trump does as news-- and he will make sure that they do by ratcheting up outrageousness until it gets attention.

2) It makes it more likely that President Biden with run for re-election... and I wish that he wouldn't.

3) It will divide Republicans, at least until it is clear that his supporters are still a critical mass in the party (or doesn't). 

4) Pundits will say nothing was learned from the 2022 elections by Republicans, and Democrats will rub their hands in happiness.

5) But... 2016 still haunts the landscape, and only fools would underestimate Trump's appeal once he has press attention.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022


The Next Project


One big election we had here was for the Hennepin County Attorney. Hennepin County includes Minneapolis and many suburbs, and is the most populous in the state. The new County Attorney will be Mary Moriarty, who will do a great job.

Yesterday she announced that Cedrick Frazier and I will lead her transition. Cedrick is member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and attorney, and I look forward to working with him. 

So, yeah, I'll be busy.

Monday, November 14, 2022

 Wow! None of the haiku on the topic of "What's in your fridge" included the line "Refrigerator," which has exactly 5 syllables. Good work!

We had this from Christine:
The shelves of our fridge
Where condiments go to die
A drawer full of cheese.
And one from Jill Scoggins:
I married a guy
from Louisiana who
cooks. Rice. Rice. Rice. Rice.

And Desiree never disappoints:

In back of the fridge,
Salsa, salsa, green and red.
Save it for Christmas?

Sunday, November 13, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Voting


Like many of you, I voted on Tuesday. Though I appreciate the need to allow early voting, I like to do it in person, in part because I find it to be a moving and emotional experience, this little bit of agency in creating our world, and I like to do it among my neighbors. 

This year there was a table of earnest looking young people sitting at the tables where you check in and get your ballot, in place of the senior citizens I usually find there. It was great to see them there-- they were not only voting but helping others to do so! That's a good sign. 

I walk the ballot over to a booth and fill in the little bubbles. Then I check to make sure I filled in the right bubbles. Then I color in any tiny blank spot in my bubbles. Then I walk the ballot over to the machine that counts the votes. Then I walk outside into the cold air and breathe deeply.

There are people I know who don't vote because they don't think it matters-- it almost never happens that an election is decided by one vote, right?

Sure... but that's not how I feel.

I love going into the forest. It's full of trees and in a truly wild place it seems to go on forever. No one tree makes it a forest or beautiful. 

But I still want to be a tree, to be a part of the beauty of that forest. 

Being the most important voter-- the one that makes the difference in an election all by myself-- is a strange goal for those of us who believe in a God that makes a forest, and six billion of us.

Saturday, November 12, 2022


My Question...

 Why is it that lots of jurisdictions get voting done in a day, and others take days and days? I understand that if there are lots of mail-in ballots that might be more of a challenge, but the disparity often is within states that have uniform rules, and some counties get it done while others languish.

Friday, November 11, 2022


Haiku Friday: What's in your fridge?


It's coming up on Thanksgiving-- time to make room in your fridge! It's that time of year when you find out what has been in there for a while. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

Fridge has a theme song:
It's "How old is that yogurt?"
I don't want to know.

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

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