Saturday, May 31, 2008


Police hoping to pull out of Detroit by the year 2012

... or so the anchorman claims at the end of the news story here, which is actually about something else (hockey). I'm glad to hear that the year 2012 is going to be so important to something other than Baylor and The Mayans.

NHL Star Called Up To Big Leagues To Play For NFL Team


Brief thoughts upon discovering that my little sister has joined the roller derby

My mom sent me this article revealing that my little sister, Kathy, has joined the roller derby under the name "Miss KO." Given that Kathy (pictured above with Mom) has the usual Osler qualities of tenacity, orneriness, and a high-impact hip check, I probably shouldn't be surprised to find her taking up with the likes of her new teammates Hellin Wheels, Screamin' Mimi, and Pistol Whip.

I'm kinda jealous, because it sounds like a lot of fun. I have always been a little in awe of Kathy anyways, since she (like my brother) has always had abilities that I don't have. She's a social worker, for example, which requires an entire skill set that I lack. Specifically, she works for an organization that helps people who would otherwise be institutionalized for mental problems to live on their own. They keep their clients' checkbooks, visit them every day, and make sure they take their medications. It is a job which serves a pure and unalloyed good.

I'm hoping this summer to make it to Chicago, and maybe catch a little rec-league roller derby. Go Miss KO!

Friday, May 30, 2008


Nobody Expects Haiku Friday!

Well, except the Spanish Medievalist, who, appropriately, is now in Spain. I just hope he got one of those red suits.

There is only one topic for this week-- that of summer. It can be anything relating to summer, broadly construed.

Here is mine:

A car backfires
I hear it from our screened porch
And then, just the wind.

Now, it is your turn:

Thursday, May 29, 2008


It's the Law School Ranking Game!

This afternoon, always-helpful RA Sid Earnheart tipped me off to something really fun-- the Law School Ranking Game, a creation of Prof. Jeffrey Stake of Indiana Univ. Law School-Bloomington.

Just go to the link, and YOU get to create the variables and weighting, based on the factors you feel are most important. It's a great tool, and fun to goof around with. What's that? Harvard is #62, and Baylor is #4? He he.

What did you come up with?


Wild, Wacky, Nuclear Vermont!

It's no secret that I truly love America's second-least-populated state, Vermont. I love the weather, and the goofy people, and the economy (which is primarily based on maple syrup, skiing, and graduate programs in writing). I also noticed that Vermont is the second-best state for children's health and number one for maternal health, which is quite an accomplishment for a relatively poor state. Sure, your kid's doctor may be Howard Dean, but at least everyone has a doctor! (Dean, a physician, actually is responsible for many of Vermont's health-care accomplishments).

The goofiness of Vermont came to the fore again yesterday as the New York Times reported that the state's only nuclear power facility may shut down because of maintenance issues. Here is the really interesting part of the article:

After part of a cooling tower collapsed last August at Vermont’s only nuclear power plant, the company that runs it blamed rotting wooden timbers that it had failed to inspect properly.

So, they built their nuclear reactor out of WOOD? Does this strike anyone else as somewhat odd? Next, will we be told that Mississippi built their reactor out of straw?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


What if Baylor Law had a glowing plasma ball?

In the comments to the last post, I found this intriguing, yet anonymous, post:

I never quite got the glowing ball thing that Padme gave to the Gungans at the end of Phantom Menace. But I also didn't get Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. So let's turn things around: would it have been better if Bush had given the al-Sahwa Sunnies a plasma ball in 2003? Or would it have made sense for Padme to have announced aboard a J-type 327 Nubian royal starship that her mission had been accomplished thanks to the victory over the Trade Federation's droid army? I'm afraid we'll never know.

Which raises the question... what if Baylor Law (say, in the office of Heather Creed) had a glowing plasma ball? How would we use it? I would imagine it could have magical fund-raising properties.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Could we do worse than a 14-year-old Queen?

A few posts back, people with Star Wars knowledge were debating the wisdom of Naboo's custom of electing a 14-year-old as their queen. It's an interesting question. Sure, you end up with a leader who has a bizarre obsession with hair, makeup, and clothes (see photo), but there must be some advantages.

In all, would the US be better off with Padme as our leader, or a third term for George W. Bush? Please opine.

Monday, May 26, 2008


A handful of guys with box cutters

Today, we are a nation at war, and we have been continuously for the past seven years. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, thousands of lives have been lost, and realms of tragedy we don't know about have been created.

The start of this all was a single incident. That incident followed decades in which the United States viewed war as something that had to do with technology and spending, unmanned missiles and bomber drones. Meanwhile, there was less and less attention paid to soldiers, the humans who died in the Revolution, the Civil War, the War to End All Wars, and then the wars that followed that.

There must be some kind of cruel irony in the fact that the first successful attack on an American city in the past century was accomplished by fewer than twenty men whose most sophisticated weapon was a box cutter. For those of you who never stocked shelves, a box cutter is a stubby knife used to rip open boxes. They are a ubiquitous tool for many people who make American commerce work, and it used to be legal to carry them onto planes.

So, those 17 guys carried box cutters onto four planes, and used them to bring down several enormous buildings. All of the aircraft carriers, all of the NSA surveillance satellites, all of the robotic weapons and stealth bombers and advanced tactical systems, the trillion dollars worth of machines, were helpless against that bagful of humble box cutters.

I wish I could say that America learned from that, that what happened was that we realized that we had suffered a great loss at the hands of individual (evil) creativity, not technology, that our post-human technology had been turned against us, but we did not. Instead, we continued down the same course. Our soldiers are kept in humiliating conditions, deprived of decent health care, and too often treated as an afterthought. Why? Well, giant weapons systems-- there's real money in that, I guess, the flow of our money that goes from government to contractor to sub-contractor with little bits dropping off at each stage.

So now we have a whole new Department with a huge budget, all-new sophisticated weapons on the way, control of Iraq, etc. etc. And what do they have?

Not much really... their numbers are down, I read, and they are losing power where they are. In a few years they may be ground down by our technology to a fraction of what they were... maybe if we continue to succeed, they will be down to just a handful of motivated individuals with box cutters.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Star Wars Questions

I've been watching the second Star Wars movie, and I have a few questions:

1) Is there some reason that these advanced societies have not come up with the seat belt? People are constantly flying out of vehicles.

2) If these Jedi are so wise, how come no one ever carries a second light saber? Most of the time, they get in a jam by losing their light saber, and there is no back-up. It just seems like a natural idea...


New Baylor Law Blogs! Whoop!

1) Fortunately, the new "Female Parts" blog focuses much more on haiku than gynecology. In fact, Jessica is a practitioner of the art of "Lawku," which combines the simple beauty of haiku with the elegance of, uh, the Uniform Commercial Code.

2) "Citizen Lane," meanwhile, focuses on law, philosophy, fiction, and politics. Lane actually understands philosophy, which is something that always impresses me.

3) Sharing some of the other bloggers' bizarre obsession with 0-0 soccer matches, "Magnificent Vista" also has a nice recap of Prof. Cordon's recent work and other insightful law school observations.

4) Meanwhile, I'm not sure who "快乐成长" is, but it looks like he or she knows how to throw a decent birthday party!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Red Wing Nation Celebrates Game One Win!

Yes, I realize that Jerry Hall and I are the only people in Waco who care about hockey (or at least we were until he decamped for Dallas, now it is just me).

Still, I'm all excited that the Red Wings won game one of the Stanley Cup finals tonight, 4-0. No one lost any teeth.

Intriguingly, the Wings are chock-full of immigrants, all of whom are legal (I think). Interestingly, when I was in Detroit, Red Wing Bob Probert actually did something that caused him not to be re-admitted to the U.S., which was kind of a problem for the Wings. Probert, of course, was a unique player-- a goon who could score. Of course, as an illegal immigrant goon who could score, he was at a real disadvantage...


270 Immigrants Imprisoned

According to the New York Times, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week for using false documents to get employment at an Iowa meat-packing plant. This story was intriguing for several reasons:

1) The speed with which they were passed through the federal system. There is a "fast-track" process for simple deportations, but I don't think that is what was going on here.

2) That this is pretty rare.

3) That they were mostly from Guatamala (except the one pictured here), messing with our perception that illegals come only from Mexico.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Pandaf Buyed Razor, Haiku Now!

Pandas buyd Razor fromm the Frenndch. Use moneyy from "Pandaa Express" Restaurants, and now have blogh. Typeing with big paws hardf! Detroit Rock City!

Now you musts haiku. Pandas pick themes for our blogf:

1) Stupid other kinds of bear
2) Mating
3) Employment Panda
4) Bamboo goodf to eat
5) Lemmy from Motorhead
6) Ling-Ling smells bad
7) Bimbo: A panda?
8) Nixon visit us!
9) Panda-monium!
10) Panda v. Wookie

Here is Panda's:

Panda love music
Of Lemmy from Motorhead
When still with Hawkwind.

Now haiku or Panda take your shirtg.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Where is that large automobile?

I hadn't noticed that the American Airlines execs were getting bonuses at the same time they were killing off their company.

Of course, the financial troubles at American "just happened." High oil prices-- who saw that coming? I mean, besides Southwest, who hedged on oil prices. And sure, they could have gotten credit to buy more fuel-efficient planes a few years ago, but who knew credit would dry up? The execs just let the company go where the river took it, they aren't responsible for where that river went.

I have always taken the legal construct of corporations as an individual pretty seriously, and this is one of the times it really fits. We all know those people who didn't plan their life, but rather let the river take them wherever, and it wasn't their fault, stuff just happened. They let the water carry them down. Same as it ever was...


I'm not sure what it is, but I kind of like it...

What language is this guy singing? I do like his friend who shows up at the end, too...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Will American Airlines finally succeed in driving away their customers?

American Airlines announced today that they will both stop running 11-12% of their flights and begin charging passengers $15 to check a bag. As for the first idea, well, given American's flight-cancellation problems, they may have already done this without us noticing. On the second, I can imagine that is going to bug some people.

Naturally, all of this is blamed on oil prices, and that certainly does have all of the airlines in a bind. American's management, however, made some poor decisions that are exacerbating the pain. Over the past few years American has tried to become more profitable by not buying new planes, instead relying on out-of-date and fuel-guzzling MD-80's. During those years, they could have financed more efficient jets, but did not.

Now that the oil shock has hit, the credit market has also dried up, meaning they cannot easily finance those new jets that now look like a much better idea. Instead, they are going to retire some of the old fleet and just not fly those routes anymore. So the remaining planes will be more crowded, the fliers will be upset about paying to check luggage, and there will still be no food available. Sigh.

Will we respond by flying less, or flying on a better airline, like Southwest? If we do, American will slip into bankruptcy, and the government may well bail them out instead of letting them die, which would be the better fate in terms of economic policy, just desserts, and ultimately, good air service.

As I have said before, I think you can bail out companies, or you can deregulate, but you shouldn't do both-- the theory of deregulation is letting the market work, and if you save failing companies, you are not letting the market work.


Employment Panda Hates Cornell

Over on one of Brian Leiter's 400 blogs, he recently noted a data set compiled by Daniel Solove of George Washington which shows the success of applicants for law teaching jobs. It breaks down the applicants by school (for their JD), and looks only at those who interviewed through the big annual Association of American Law Schools Conference. The AALS combine is the way most people (including me, in 2000) get teaching jobs.

The general impression I got from this data was that I'm very lucky to have found this job, since the overwhelming majority of applicants were unsuccessful. Consider the following daunting facts about the applicants from 2006-2008:

1) None of the 22 applicants with a Cornell J.D. got a teaching job.
2) Only 8 of the 80 applicants from Georgetown got a teaching job.
3) 19 of the 68 applicants from Columbia got a job.
4) Only 3 of the 37 graduates of the Univ. of Pennsylvania got a job.

Crikeys! All of these schools are well within the top 20.

Below, you can see Employment Panda attack an unsuccessful AALS participant from Baylor two years ago:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Boating safety protocols violated

1) It doesn't seem like it would take too much to keep a sternwheel paddleboat afloat on a very flat lake, but we have trouble with that here in Waco. Last year the Brazos Belle sank in a storm (I remember pieces floating by the law school), and now it has happened again. According to the Waco Trib, the Spirit of the River paddleboat has now joined the crowd in Waco's own Davey Jones locker. It sank yesterday during a particularly boneheaded maneuver in which the owners somehow ran the hose and pump backwards and instead of pumping water out of the boat, they pumped water in. Doh! One can only hope that they were wearing their personal floatation devices, as PFD Panda (pictured here with newsman Charles Gibson) advises.

2) This morning I was listening to the local sports talk radio show, when I heard the host (Paul Catalina) say "you know, it's like that story in the Book of Ezekial..." Now, don't get me wrong-- I love both the Bible and sports, and having them come together is fine, but I'm not sure many other sports shows quote Ezekial. I liked it a lot.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Who can borrow my flamethrower? (Pt. 2)

People who can borrow my flamethrower:

Amanda Sturgill
Mrs. CL
The Dadaist
Prof. Wren
Spanish Medievalist
Shoji Tabuchi
Nathan the Law Student
Ninja Coco
GED3 (only for purposes of helping boy scouts get their Flamethrower merit badge)
Bob Darden
DiaDelKendall's 4-year-old
Yee (but you can't have my Panda)

People who cannot borrow my flamethrower:

Dan Buck
Prof. Wren's Wookie
Wedgehead (pictured below)
Marty Turco
Prof. Fusilier
Mr. Lego
IPLawGuy (linked video actually features IPLawGuy!)

Wondering if I would trust YOU with a flamethrower? Just ask in the comments section, and I will add you to one list or the other!


Jim Chen: Stop Making Me Think!

One of my favorite legal bloggers is Jim Chen, the Dean at Louisville and contributor to a variety of blogs. His most recent post of note involved tenured faculty who no longer produce scholarship. The top four reasons given:

1) I have nothing to say that would reinvent my field.
2) No one will read it anyway.
3) I object to student-edited law reviews.
4) I get more satisfaction out of service and teaching.

You can (and should) read the whole thing here.

[Also, for the record, if I was a dwarf, right now I would be "Sneezy." That's Waco in Spring...]

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Darden wins! Darden wins! (Crowd goes into frenzy)

My Sunday School teacher and mentor, Bob Darden, was justly and thoroughly honored at the undergraduate commencement yesterday. This year he won not only the Centennial Professor award, but was named most Outstanding professor in research. Now, that may not strike you as as big a deal as it really is-- the thing to remember is that a journalism professor won the research award, on a campus blanketed with people doing scientific research of all kinds.

Of course, the other irony is that Bob is an incredible teacher. I've learned more from him and his wife, Mary, than I have from most of my own professors, and that group was no slouch.

Bob won the award on the strength of his project to save the legacy of gospel music in America. Is there anything better to hope to accomplish than to change the world in a way like that?

Here's what makes it special-- doing something like that (or stopping coal plants) will make the future better. Bob's house contains an amazing collection of comic books. The stories in those books, over and over, are of superheroes saving the world from some temporary and imagined threat. But what Bob does (and Mary, with the coal plants) changes the future in a much more profound way, saving us from a permanent threat to our future. A rogue cyborg, after all, won't stick around forever, but once the song "John the Revelator" is lost to the world, it will never come back.

That's my kind of hero.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Puttin' It Out There

Last night I went down to Gruene Hall with some good friends to see Todd Snider. Gruene Hall is a great place to see a show, especially one that relies on some feedback from the audience. It was my first time to see Todd Snider, and he put on a strong show. I love it when you can tell the band loves what they do, and that was certainly true last night.

Growing up around artists and musicians, I know part of the anxiety that can precede a show like that. Performers and artists have to put their work out there, and there is a real vulnerability to it. When I see people liking what artists do, I always breathe a sigh of relief. Of course, I have never been an artist or musician myself.

Still, there is an aspect of performance to what I do. Every day in class I have an audience, and a really important one, each of whom is paying a lot to get into the show (much more than one has to pay for a show at Gruene Hall, even if you went every day). There is a duty that goes with that, a responsibility. And, sometimes, that anxiety comes with it, too.

When I write, there is that vulnerability, too. You send it out there and lose control over that thing-- anyone can take it and react to it, love it or hate it. People can think you are an idiot or a genius, call you a fundamentalist or a flaming liberal dope (I'm one of the few people who have been called both at one time or another). Sometimes, too, your thoughts can find a home in someplace you never expected.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Ha... Ha... Haiku!

At Baylor, it is the start of another quarter, once again. The summer is always quieter than the others, always more gentle in a way. There are the new people, the summer starters, and from the little I have seen this is a good group. While I love seeing them, at the same time I kind of wish I was still in New York. Eudora Welty described that thing I love best about it, that it is a "city of brilliant moments." One, for me, was finding this image. The tape, I think, was holding together the glass where it had cracked, but did they mean to make such a perfect cross?

For now, though, are we ready, after one full week for some... haiku? This week, we will relax all technical requirements. Here are some suggested topics:

1) The Godfather, Part I
2) The Godfather, Part II
3) The Godfather, Part III
4) Speed Racer
5) Summer comes
6) Favorite hymns
7) Best desserts
8) The proper role of coffee
9) Summer work
10) What is art?

I know it when I...
See it? The true standard, that,
Summer swelter, art.

Now it is your turn:

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Octopus on the ice!

Thanks to Dan Sorey and his pals in Daingerfield, Texas, I went up to Dallas last night for the Red Wings/Stars playoff game. The Wings are were up in the series, 3-0, but lost last night's game 3-1. I grew up playing hockey, and played until I moved to Texas. As a kid I was on a few great teams, but not because of me--our goalie was John Vanbiesbrouck (really). We were very hard to score on.

Even though the Wings lost, it was still a blast. Here were some of the highlights:

1) There were lots of Wings fans there, and someone threw an octopus on the ice, which is a Detroit playoff tradition. You might be surprised that there is a link between hockey and seafood, but that's because you are from Texas.

2) Marty Turco (the Stars' goalie) was incredible. The Wings had something like 40 shots on goal (to the Stars 26ish), and he was a wall. The other hero for the Stars was Mike Modano, who scored the winning goal. Here's the deal, though: They are both Michigan guys. Turco is from Sault Ste. Marie (on the border with Michigan), and played for the Univ. of Michigan, while Modano is from Detroit (actually Livonia, a close-in suburb).

3) At the end of the game, the Stars had two penalties and the Wings pulled their goalie, so it was 6-on-3, a total melee, and Turco turned away every shot. Now that's some good hockey!


Another bad idea: Pro-smoking ads shown with kids' movies!

As I was seeing the movie Speed Racer, I saw a weird advertisement. It showed a boy (of course, too young to smoke) saying "People don't need to smoke too much. They just need... [cue animated dancing magical unicorn] The Magical Amount, The Magical Amount [by this point, more forest creatures have joined in]..." It goes on like this for a few minutes. I really can't decide whether this is a pro-smoking ad, satiracal anti-smoking ad (didn't work), or an ad for a nicotine patch.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Death of an Artist

Yesterday, Robert Rauschenberg died. Though our paths crossed in various ways, I never met him. In an indirect way, though, he changed my life. It was at a lecture two years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Paoletti that I started thinking about putting art into one of my lectures. Paoletti made the work seem so real and alive that I was captivated, and that inspiration still colors what I do. Just yesterday, in fact, I gave Nicole Tingelstad the assignment of helping me to develop art slides for a lecture to go with my death penalty book.

For those who don't know his work, Rauschenberg created painting and sculpture, but is best know for his "combines," which were a mix of the two, usually incorporating things that he found on the street or elsewhere. He actually built real life right into the art, if you think about it. His work is dense with images; there is rarely anything simple about it. For example, in the combine pictured below (one of his most famous), there is a tire, a lot of images (including "L.H.O.O.Q."), and a farm animal. You can glance at it and think it is a lark, but if you look at it closely, at the images there, it pulls you in.

Perhaps more than anyone else, when artists die, they leave a lot of themselves behind. It is a strange but important kind of immortality, the immortality of ideas.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


It's ok, I know an IPLawGuy

You should go see Speed Racer, if you have a whacked-up sense of humor. The jokes were mediocre, the characters could have been made up by Jar-Jar Binks, the shots of the cars probably caused upward of 50,000 seizures, and the plot couldn't have been explained by the writer. In other words, it was much better than expected. I really enjoyed the strange zebra patterns on the racetrack walls and the very strange timeline (such as a race from an adult's childhood is referred to as from '43, but another similar-aged adult is referring to the Commodore 64 coming out when he was a kid). To all wondering, the cartoon above is not a piece of the movie's script (although it very well might be), but a cartoon from my new favorite cartoon site, Garfield Minus Garfield. It takes Garfield away from all of the Garfield strips, producing results like the Nietzsche Family Circus. Speaking of which, check this out.


Truth and Strength

Not long ago, I wrote about one of my favorite legal writers and thinkers, William Stuntz of Harvard. His sharp, incisive mind has led me to many of my own insights, and I look to his work as a guide to what I would like to do.

Among the many other things that may describe him, Prof. Stuntz is also in a struggle with Stage 4 cancer. He posted about this recently on his own blog (with David Skeel). Below is a bit of the post; you can see the whole thing here.

In short, I can’t live strong, because there isn’t much strength left in me. But I can live weak.

What does that mean? Plenty of people could answer that question better than I can. I’m a beginner at this enterprise; I’m still learning the most elementary lessons. But there is one lesson I think I’ve learned, and it’s crucial. The lesson begins with the virtue of low standards.

Low standards sound more like vice than virtue. I spent most of my working life trying to set the bar as high as possible. Aim high—even if you don’t reach the target, you’ll do more and better than you would if the target wasn’t there. The higher the bar, the better the performance. For many years, I lived by that principle, as do most of my friends in a wide range of professions. Twenty-first century Americans push ourselves, and we push hard.

Only I can’t push anymore. The bar is no longer just out of reach; it’s on a different planet than the one where I live. Not so long ago, aiming high felt like a good motivational exercise, like an effective locker room pep talk. Now, it feels like telling a paralytic he can run around the block if only he’d try a little harder: the enterprise is at once cruel and pointless, and it motivates nothing more than despair. Maybe a better way to put the point is this: All my life, I’ve tried to do my best. Now, it seems that my best is gone; it doesn’t exist anymore. So I do what I can. I try not to aim at targets, and I try not to measure myself. Some days, I can’t read or write anything serious. Some days, I can. I do what I can, when I can. The bar has disappeared.

An interesting thing happens when you put aside all the yardsticks and just do what’s possible. Motivation changes. Work is no longer about achievement and reward. It’s more about love and beauty. There is something very powerful—C.S. Lewis might have called it deep magic—about working for love of the work itself: labor becomes less labored, more gift than obligation. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to put words on a computer screen—but the ability to do it now, even if only sometimes, is more precious than I can describe. I don’t know whether that makes the work better, but I’m pretty sure it makes me better.

Likewise, there is something inexpressibly lovely—notice that word’s first syllable—about ordinary tasks done for love of the tasks, and done while in the grip of a disease that seems determined to make those tasks impossible. It’s the beauty of a runner’s last marathon, the beauty of an aging athlete’s final game, the game he pours his soul into, as the best artists do in their best work. It may not be lovely to anyone else, and that’s OK by me: cancer is an ugly disease, in every possible way. No wonder people recoil from it. But in the midst of all its life-sapping, soul-destroying ugliness, something amazing can happen: the most ordinary things, the most mundane tasks, take on value and beauty beyond anything I could have imagined. Whether or not anyone else sees it, I see it. And that’s enough.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Is that a sport or an employment guide?

I'm not sure why, but Clay Travis over as CBS Sports had an excellent blog post about picking law schools recently (he's a Vanderbilt Law Grad). Here are some of his more intriguing tips:

7. When you visit consider the attractiveness of the undergraduate population. One of my good friends went to college in the northeast. He knew nothing about Nashville or Vanderbilt. But he went to a law school fair and the Vanderbilt counselor gave him the usual selling points for a school like Vandy. My friend was unmoved. Then at the end, the guy said, sort of under his breath, "Plus, the undergrad girls are unbelievably hot." Sold. Remember, you don't want to waste your love in the law line at the bar on mediocre girls with bingo wings.

8. Assuming the law school is above 80 percent, comparing bar passage rates tells you nothing about the quality of a law school. Don't be moved by the trumpeting of these stats. By the time you're studying for the bar exam you realize that most intelligent people could spend three months studying the Barbri course outlines, memorizing the absurd MBE fact patterns, and pass the bar exam. But by that time you've spent three years learning how to be a lawyer. Congratulations. Once you've practiced law for a couple of years you wouldn't be able to pass the bar exam. It's a great system.

9. The better the school you attend the more it costs but the less hard you have to work while you're there. There are exceptions (for instance those lucky bastards who get in-state tuition at Virginia or the University of Michigan) but this is generally the case. The better the school the more lenient the grading curve. Consider this a good trade. And if you can go to Yale or Stanford where law school is graded pass/fail? My god, mortgage your soul. Go.

12. For the record there is no law school that you can't afford to attend. No matter how poor you are they'll give you the loan money and enough over and above that amount to live on because lawyers, for better or worse, generally pay back their loans. So if anyone isn't planning on law school because of the cost issue, that's not a legitimate concern. Nor is assuming that everyone is rich in law school. That's a complete fallacy. Most of my friends still have negative net-worths.

13. If you go to a lesser-tier school you'll have to work harder to get looked at by big firms. And if you go really far down the law school pecking order you may not be able to get a job out of state. That can be fine, most big firm jobs pay well but suck the life out of you with every passing hour. But if you're not able to compete for what you perceive to be the best jobs it can be really frustrating. Even worse it can also poison the law school environment to have everyone gunning for one of five big firm jobs. Be forewarned if you go this route that the law school environment might very well be miserable.

15. Where should I go to make the most money? If money is your ultimate goal you shouldn't be a lawyer. There are thousands of ways you can make much more money. Plaintiff's lawyers notwithstanding, as a lawyer you're ultimately hamstrung by how many billable hours you can crank out. And every hour you bill is one less hour you get to have a life. Be careful chasing those big firm golden handcuffs, be careful.

16. Keep in mind that the law is completely unbalanced when it comes to career search. The most competitive jobs in the legal profession are either the highest-paying or the lowest paying. The only thing more miserable than practicing law is trying to get a job practicing law. Don't expect that your first law job is going to last. I've been graduated from law school for less than four years and 75 percent of my classmates are already working at different jobs than the ones they started. That's why getting hung up on the first job you have is really a waste of time.


How is IPLawBaby?

People have been asking me-- how is the newest IPLawBaby doing? The answer is "not too bad." She is able to draw simple figures, but still will not clean her place after dinner or take out the trash.

Also, it must be hard sharing a home with her older sister, Reagan Baby. Not just the fame, but the constant instructions on "self-sufficiency," etc. I would imagine that the demand for another bottle is cause for being called a "Welfare Queen" by Reagan Baby.

So, what's going on, IPLawGuy?

Sunday, May 11, 2008


New York 2

[click to enlarge]

When I was in law school and took the train into the city, I came into a Grand Central Station that was very different than this. The side lobby was given over to real danger, and the restrooms were scary. Worst of all, probably, was that the windows were blocked off by large billboards. It was transformative to see the old girl for the first time with the windows uncovered, and that New York light streaming in. It is a beautiful place.


New York 1

Sometimes when I walk in New York, I'll carry my old 2mp Canon Elph and just snap pictures at random. I don't want people to think I'm taking pictures, so I shoot them from the hip, basically, without looking at the frame as I shoot. This technique produces about 90% terrible pictures and 10% great ones. I like this one a lot-- there is an uneasy balance between the three guys and the one woman. It looks like they are from different worlds, and in New York that is often true.
[As usual, you can click on the photo to make it bigger]


Mike Gravel Update!

As has been his habit over the past year, one of my colleagues has been giving me near-hourly reports on Sen. Mike Gravel's bid for the presidency. It looks like Sen. Gravel has switched from being a Democrat to a Libertarian, and he also has put out this spicy new video:

Saturday, May 10, 2008


The next thing...

My other project for the week (besides the guideline principles "Acid Trip" piece) actually takes me into unfamiliar terrain-- legal philosophy. I'm learning a lot as I work on this new article, and I've got a big chunk done. Here is the start of it:

The realm of federal sentencing has become (among other things) a fascinating social experiment. There, judges are constrained by “advisory” sentencing guidelines, which are very specific about what an appropriate sentence might be. Because sentences within the guidelines are less likely to be appealed, and because many federal appellate courts consider a sentence within those guidelines to be presumptively reasonable, there is a strong incentive for sentencing judges (who do not like to be reversed on appeal), to sentence within the guideline range.

Given this strong incentive, we have seen two surprising things happening in federal sentencing. First, judges sentence outside of the guideline range more than one-third of the time. Second, when they do abandon the sentencing guidelines, they do so by going below the recommendation about 96% of the time, while going above the guidelines only 4% of the time.

It is the second of these observations that is the basis of this article. Obviously, federal judges overwhelmingly reject the guidelines because they view them as too harsh as they sentence an individual defendant. Where does this tendency towards mercy come from? My thesis here is that this is an example of natural law—that the impulse towards mercy is “written on the hearts” (as Aquinas might say) of those judges who must stand in judgment of living, complex people who come and stand before them, awaiting a sentence.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Fiesta Friday of Haiku Magnificence

It's haiku time, friends! Here are the topics:

1) What I did with the one week between Spring and Summer quarters
2) The worst car ever
3) The worst dating relationship ever
4) Smoothies!
5) Television shows from hell
6) The wacky world of legal scholarship
7) Spam on my Windowns
8) Why won't anyone go see the Washington Nationals?
9) Riddles
10) Your favorite place in Waco

Here is mine:

Ford Fiesta, bad
Rattled and fell apart quick
Color of old dung.

Now it's your turn!


I'm pretty sure "always interesting" is a good thing...

Doug Berman gave my new "Acid Trip" piece a very nice little blurb today on his 3-million-hits-and-counting (really!) Uber-blog. He did call it a "great read," which I'll have to remember to put on the promotional materials. Well, I would if law review articles had promotional materials.

At the very least, I'm sure it means that some people at the sentencing commission are reading it right now...


Gettin' it done

At the same time as I have been doing research on a new article on mercy as a part of natural law (as seen in federal sentencing), I finished up a good draft of an article which includes all of the following:

1) Several acid trip references
2) An extensive discussion of a cartoon
3) A charge that the federal sentencing guidelines are morally incoherent
4) Mixed metaphors galore
5) An argument for tearing the sucka down.

You can download it here. Please do!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Clean living

One remarkable thing about New York is how efficient it is. Because so many people walk and take public transit, and live in apartments rather than houses (which saves on heat and air conditioning), New Yorkers have a carbon footprint that is 75% smaller than the typical American's. Density has a lot to do it, of course (and climate), but it is remarkable how fit people look-- it must be all that walking.


The Judge

One of the things I have been doing here in New York is talking to people within the justice system about the idea of mercy. It's part of my next big writing project. I was lucky enough to have dinner with one of the people who thinks actively about such things, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. We go way back... 25 years back, actually, since I was his R.A. in college, and then we were in the same law school class.

Rich was always diligent, principled, articulate and even-handed-- the perfect recipe for a great judge, and there is no one else from our peer group I would rather see on the bench.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Blogs of note

Have you ever assumed you did something a long time ago and then realized you never did? Well, that just happened to me. I figured I had linked to the Baylor Career Services Office blog months ago, but either I never did or it didn't take. My apologies, Heather & Monica, and I have now fixed that. [do you think they will link to me?]

Meanwhile, it looks like America's most suspiciously-adult-sounding 6th grader has his blog back up and running, not surprisingly with a post involving Speed Racer.


Race, Drugs, and Prison

As usual, Doug Berman has been busy flagging important sentencing issues while I post party photos. Yesterday, he provided a link to this troubling story, which once again informs us that blacks are disproportionately punished for narcotics offenses.

The article properly points out that part of the problem may be the neighborhoods where narcotics enforcement is targeted. But part of the story also has to be the tale of laziness which pervades narcotics investigation-- that instead of looking to take down the difficult-to-catch white and hispanic leaders of drug organizations, police too often content themselves with just arresting the easier-to-catch (and more often black) street sellers. The result is not only adding to racial injustice, but is ineffective at changing the drug trade since the street sellers are so easily replaced.


Happy guys in ties

Pictured above is Layne Rouse, whom I have discussed previously. One great thing about commencement is meeting people's families-- usually, that explains a lot! Layne's mom has always called her children with a peacock call-- it's a pretty amazing bird call-- and it is the first time I ever heard that at commencement.

This is Jeff Watters, who had his family in tow as well. They looked proud of him, as well they should be. His mom told me she even reads the Razor, which means I had better start doing a better job around here...

To be honest, I didn't get enough pictures, and there are several people I wanted to catch up with but didn't. Commencement is like that-- whirlwind, then absence.

Monday, May 05, 2008


IPLawGuy liked this, but then again, he has always had much in common with Batman...


The Razor, print edition

Today's Waco Herald Tribune ran a short editorial today based on a Razor post from last week. Since last month the Trib got the Attorney General to oppose me, I was hoping that this time there would be a response from the Pope or something, but I wasn't that lucky. Rats.


Trevor the Graduate

One of the graduates last Saturday was Trevor Theilen, who I will very much miss. It was Trevor who invited me to speak to the Christian Legal Society last year, which was a wonderful experience—I ended up giving a much more personal message than I intended, and that was a great thing.

In class, Trevor was always tuned in, and I had to resist calling on him too often, as he was one of those who always had a good answer. Not always the same answer I had, maybe, but sometimes a better one. Trevor wants to be a prosecutor, and he will be a great one, as he has the focus, principles and analytical ability essential to doing well at that job.

Plus, he looks way better than I do in this photo….

Sunday, May 04, 2008


The graduation spectacular

I'll be stringing out these commencement photos for the next couple days or so, but there is a lot to show and say. One of the highlights of the commencement was Rachel Dupen. She graduated first in this large class (a real accomplishment, given some of the others in the mix). Apparently, she was dragged up to the stage to give a speech at the last minute, and against her will, and she did a great job. She spoke movingly of her classmates and their efforts, which was something that needed mentioning. I was very proud of the school, if we can bring something like that out of the most reluctant public speakers.

Things didn't go so well for the woman who came in second behind Rachel, Sandra Deschutes. She tripped right after she got her diploma from Leah Jackson and hurt her ankle. She had trouble getting up, so they had to euthanize her right there on stage, which put a damper on things for a few minutes. Fortunately, by the time we got to the "G's", everything was fine.

The picture above shows the graduating members of my team from this Spring, the be-robed Christie Smith and the disrobed (so to speak) Layne Rouse. Also pictured are Ed Cloutman and Tom Jacob, who finally quit that chef gig. Not pictured are Rachel Sonstein (at a wedding, I think) and Kaye Johnson (released on bail later in the day).

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Commencement: Awesome

As always, commencement was happiness, sadness, and a bit of drama. Prof. Counseller gave a great speech-- it really was excellent-- in which he revealed that he has told his kids that he is a Jedi. Probably a good move in the long run.

One thing that was obvious was how much he loves this job, teaching, and I can certainly understand that. We on the faculty are very lucky, and the varying emotions of graduation remind us of that most of all.


Two Great Scholars, followed by a mob

Two of my favorite legal academics are David Skeel of the University of Pennsylvania law school and William Stuntz of Harvard Law School. They are wonderful writers whose stuff I would enjoy reading even if I wasn't in the field of law. The fact that their work, in combination, covers both Christianity and criminal law means that I run into their work all the time in the course of my own research. Skeel's The Unbearable Lightness of Christian Scholarship has been, for me, a personal primer on what my scholarship (at least my Christian scholarship) should do. Though some other Christian academics have been upset about it, I think he is exactly right. Stuntz's The Pathological Politics of Criminal Law, in turn, is one of the very best, perhaps the best, academic article I have ever read.

Now, these two guys have combined to start a blog, Less Than The Least. It's full of great stuff, as you might expect. And there is something intriguing going on there, too, in the comments section. In posts like this one, their considered observations are followed by a barrage of attacks from the right. If this is, in fact, one of the few places on the internet where people read the work of those they disagree with, that's all to the good, as that kind of crossover is too rare.

[Question: When is Reagan Baby getting a blog? It seems like a natural.]

Friday, May 02, 2008


To the Ramparts for Haiku Friday!

Today we give the last finals of the quarter, and tomorrow is commencement, yet again. With four commencements a year, they seem to come pretty fast.

Here are the topics for haiku this week:

1) The baseball season, so far
2) What I would do with $2 million
3) Baylor and the bar exam
4) Commencement
5) Allergies
6) The Coneheads
7) Pants full of cash
8) Bad dreams
9) Barbecue
10) The NFL draft

Or, shoot, haiku about whatever. Here is mine for this week:

I walk to the store
And order a large wormshake
Only a dream, a dream...

Now it is your turn--

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Baylor Rocks the Bar for, like, the 900th time!

The February, 2008 bar results are in, and here are the numbers for first-time test takers:

1) Baylor 95.83% (46 of 48) (100% on repeaters-- 2 out of 2)
2) Texas Tech 92.86% (26 of 28) (55% on repeaters at 10 of 18)
3) SMU 92.31% (36 of 39) (64% on repeaters at 9 of 14)
4) South Tex. 88.24% (20 of 23) (67% on repeaters at 19 of 28)
5) St. Mary's 86.96% (20 of 23) (63% on repeaters 23 of 36)
6) Texas 80% (24 of 30) (58% on repeaters at 17 of 29)
7) Tex. Wesly. 79.59% (39 of 49) (85% on repeaters at 17 of 20)
8) Houston 78.95% (30 of 38) (41% on repeaters at 13 of 31)
9) Tex. South. 59.26% (16 of 27) (45% on repeaters at 24 of 53)

If I were looking at a law school to attend, the number that would jump out at me is the one that most strongly shows Baylor's continuing and consistent success-- the total number of repeat test-takers. Despite having the most first-timers taking the test (probably because of our schedule), we have by far the smallest number of re-takers... because our students almost always pass the first time.

And that's a test you only want to take once!


Fantasy Endowment...

The other day I happened across one of the many plaques in the law school honoring donors for endowing a person, place or thing. It's an important part of what keeps a school going these days, and I'm thankful for every single one of those people. Which led to a thought-- what if I had $2 million to give to the law school? What would I want to endow? That would be enough to fund a faculty chair, or perhaps build a little addition to the school, or begin a clinic.

If you were my advisors, what would you suggest?

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