Friday, October 31, 2008


Earthquake mildly disturbs Dallas

So, Dallas suffered the slightly annoying affects of an earthquake registering 3.0 on the Richter scale last night. No one was injured and no property damage was reported, but it was "kinda weird."

Did any Razorites notice this?


Idaho, South Dakota, Maryland, Vermont

Perhaps like some of you, I have become obsessed with the electoral college map. What I can't figure out is why they have no data for Idaho, South Dakota, Maryland and Vermont. These four states have nothing in common. If it was just Idaho, South Dakota, and Vermont, I could see it-- those are states where (I think) internet and telephone service is not yet available. But Maryland? What gives?


Halloween Haiku Extravaganza

First off, Lane's comment to yesterday's post ("Don't blame me, I voted for Argbf") made me snarf. Good one.

The picture above is the most halloween-y one I could find. It depicts, of course, Swanburg's Mom on stage with Meatloaf. (Her description of that relationship, by the way, was one of my favorite moments here).

So, here are the topics for this week's haiku:

1) Halloween memories
2) Best halloween costumes
3) The Phillies!
4) Grar v. Argbf
5) That other election
6) The states of Florida and North Carolina
7) Woodley Park
8) Finals!
9) The Serr-a-thon
10) Cabbage Patch Kids

Best costume ever:
Giant Snoopy costume, white

Now, it is your turn...



I'm pretty sure this exact same thing happened on Fox News last year:

In The Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Panda Mayhem Thursday: Argbf responds!

Grar is Giant Moron. Argbf love cubs, including own cub, Urrg. Seen here in picture.

Argbf have simple four-point panda plan:
1) Not live in zoo, but in freedom
2) Use freedom to make world better
C) Institute a gradually progressive marginal-rate tax plan with the primary burden on this increase falling only on those making incomes which would place them in the top 2% of all earners
4) Live in peace with Woodley Park residents, eating only slow and fatter ones and then moving into slow, fat people's apartments
5) More bamboo

Argbf not invade things or make government bad or eat your money. Argbf not big liar like Grar, and Argbf also not hiding gun in cage like Grar. Grar run over children with truck.

Argbf for president!


Panda Mayhem Thursday with Guest Blogger Grar the Panda

Me Grar, Panda of zoo in Washington. Before election talk, Grar make list of things good to eat:

1) Bamboo
2) Good tasting residents of Woodley Park area
3) Shirts
4) Sticks
5) McDonald's Sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle
F) Paper box
G) Long grass
8) Hot Pockets
9) Taco Bueno Crunchy Taco
10) Bamboo
11) Pop Tart

Now is talk of politics. My opponent, Argbf, would be terrible president. He take all your money, and eat it. He eat money. Then he take your mate and take her to his cage to live. Redistributer! If Argf win election, life end as we know it. Grar must win. Grar is Giant Maverick Panda! If Grar win, biggest pandas get more bamboo, and maybe they give some to you, or end of it fall off, and you go grab it. It be good for growth and fatness. We all grow and eat and then the mating and the cubs. Grar love cubs! Argf ambivalent about cubs, and he socialist. He kissing Marx! Ha ha!

Grar best for president! Argbf end world through inexperience.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Obvious things I didn't realize...

1) Fingernails actually serve an important purpose-- the ends of our fingers would get all mashed up without them.

2) The name of the state of Maryland is actually very Catholic: Mary-Land. Huh. I guess you should expect that from George Calvert, who was a member of the Irish House of Lords.

3) A mildly more progressive tax system is actually socialism. Wow. I did not know that!


Internship News

Obama Undertakes Presidential Internship To Ease Concerns About His Lack Of Experience

It's kind of nice to finally, after all these years, see a joke that involves "intern" and "President" yet has nothing to do with Bill Clinton.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Swimming with Ginger

I just noticed that sometime-Razorite and BLS all-star Ginger Hunter (she seems to jump aboard most often when the Razor goes French) has a blog about interesting places to swim.

Apparently, I am late to the game, though, as she seems to have abandoned it in September. The stuff that's on there, though, almost makes me want to go swimming!


Gordon Davenport has left the building...

Gordon Davenport came by and hauled off a big pile of stuff he has been storing on my back porch. Amazingly, after five years of law school (well, three years of law school and two years of clerking for Judge Smith here in Waco and helping me out a lot at law school), Gordon is leaving the state.

But don't worry-- he has a good reason. Gordon is leaving to begin work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Tucson.

Now, this is a pretty remarkable development. This is the first time I have heard of someone being hired as an AUSA right off of a clerkship (other than through DOJ's Honors Program). In fact, I clerked and then worked for three years in a big firm before I could make the same move.

Gordon is going to be a great prosecutor. I'm so glad he is getting the opportunity, too-- but very sad, selfishly, that he will step into his gigantic SUV, pack up 18 liters of Coke and a cooler of seafood for the journey, and head west with an open road and a great future ahead of him.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Baylor wins National Trial Advocacy competition!

Last week, while on my way to Midland, I had lunch at the DFW airport with Baylor's team en route to the National Trial Advocacy tournament in Lansing, Michigan. The team (which included Razor contributors TJ and Diadelkendall) seemed ready to go, and it turns out they were. They won the tournament handily, beating Creighton, Florida State, Drexel, Georgia State, the University of Houston, and the Detroit Lions on their way to the championship.

I had absolutely nothing to do with this team, but they were ably coached by Robert R. Little (pictured here entertaining the ladies), a friend to the Razor and a former student who was on the 2004 NACDL tournament team I coached to a humbling 3d place finish (fie on you, Alabama!). So, in a way, this is kind of like watching your grandchildren do well-- none of the work, but all of the pride.

Congratulations, RRL, Tom Jacob, Joel Bailey, Alex Bell, and Kendell Cockrell! We are proud of you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Sunday Reflection: Faith and Culture

As most people (except RRL) recommended, I went to hear Ben Folds down at Stubbs BBQ in Austin last night. It was an incredible show-- one of my favorite concerts ever. As I had hoped, there were some surprises, the crowd was totally engaged in the show, and it was a beautiful night in a town very happy after UT's victory over Oklahoma State.

Despite having recorded an album titled "Five Songs About Jesus," (which contained only four songs, none of which are about Jesus) Ben Folds is an entirely secular act-- profane, even, at times. Which raises the question-- is there something wrong with a person of faith so enjoying Ben Folds?

Up in the wilderness of Ontario, I know some people who live there because they have totally withdrawn from public life, for faith reasons. They view our culture as corrupting, and escape the only way to avoid that corruption.

Obviously, I don't share that view. Moreover, it is not just that I live in the world and tolerate it, sometimes I revel in parts of it that aren't Christian at all. It's not that I was smoking pot or getting drunk-- but I sure was having a great time.

How do others draw that line?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Wow! Tuition-free UC-Irvine Law

Over on Brian Leiter's blog, I noticed a link to some amazing news-- UC-Irvine's new law school is giving full three-year scholarships to every incoming student. Crikeys!

The school, I suppose, won't be accredited when it opens, which makes enrolling a risk. Given the strength of the faculty and dean (Erwin Chemerinsky), though, I think it is a good bet that the school will be accredited once the students graduate.


My trip to the landfill

[and no, this is not another political post-- point well taken, Craig]

This morning, for the first time ever, I went to the dump. With the guesthouse renovation done, I had a bunch of junk that had formed a big pile, so I shoveled it all into the back of the car and went to the town dump. It was... awesome!

Seriously, I had no idea what all is going on out at the dump. There was a huge line of trucks waiting to go in (they weigh you on the way in and the way out, and charge you about a dollar for each hundred pounds you lose during your visit). What was interesting was what, exactly was going into the landfill. Much of it seemed to be from torn-down houses and minor renovations-- slabs of wood and concrete, with old home furnishings mixed in. Every trailer told a story... one guy had a box truck full of baby toys and furniture. It was so much stuff, though that it seemed like it must have been from more than one house; how does that work? Is he a baby-stuff removal specialist? I wondered.

Once you drive up to the top of the trash pile, a guy tells you where to back in, and you toss your junk on top of the rest of the junk. For a minute, though, I really wanted to scavenge-- there was a great folding chair a few yards away. I'm pretty sure that isn't allowed, though.

All in all, a great morning for just $3.27. If you need an activity next weekend, I would highly recommend the Waco dump.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Haiku Fall Friday

First of all, I'd like to thank my guest bloggers on Political Mayhem Thursday for the past four weeks-- RRL, Lane, the Waco Farmer, and IPLawGuy. A good job by all. If there are others that would like a crack at it, feel free to email me. I'll be around, except for lunch with the Spanish Medievalist.

Classes end next week as the fall quarter comes to a close. It still seems odd-- part of my brain still seems to be on semesters. The beauty of haiku during finals is that they are short, meaningful, and fun. Here, I'll give you a wide variety of topics:

1) IPLawChildren (pictured below)
2) The most efficient way to fail a class
3) Bates' Halloween costume
4) My 501(K)
5) Quoting Monty Python
6) Quoting the Simpsons
7) Fear of dentistry
8) Anxiety
9) Joe the Plumber
10) Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album

Here is mine:

Sarah Palin Brooke--
That one's a real cutie-pie!
But... she barfs a lot.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday with Guest Blogger IPLawGuy

[IPLawGuy is pictured here with his daughters Phyllis Schlafly Brooke, 2, and the newborn Sarah Palin Brooke. IPLawWife is not pictured because she was taking 3 minutes off of child care]

I'm voting for John McCain and you should too:

McCain is a conservative Republican who puts country and principle before Party. He has opposed Republican Presidents Reagan and both Bushes as well as GOP leaders in both houses of Congress on issues ranging from WIC funding, tobacco reform, telecomm reform, campaign finance, the conduct of the war in Iraq and much more. His opponent has almost no record of going against his own party's leadership in the U.S. Senate or in the Illinois state house. Voting "Present" on controversial issues does not make one a candidate for a profile in courage.

John McCain is serious about cutting government waste. He's opposed earmarks, and searched out and destroyed wasteful programs and bad contracts. Due to his pursuit of corruption, people have gone to jail. The Democrats point out that earmarks are a small percentage of the budget, but as McCain has pointed out, earmarks are part of the culture of reckless overspending in Washington. Earmarks are a gateway drug.

McCain is right on the War in Iraq and on military policy in general. In the 80's when he opposed deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon, he advocated what became known as "The Powell Doctrine," which basically is the idea that U.S. Troops should only be deployed when there is a clear military objective and when we can use overwhelming force. McCain was one of the first Members of Congress, Republican or Democrat to take issue with Rumsfeld's handling of the war. McCain bucked the GOP in the 90's when he supported Clinton on the war in Bosnia. McCain understands that the United States is force for good and that posturing alone won't change the world. Sometimes force must be applied. McCain has a backbone and the world knows it.

McCain's ideas on a spending freeze make a lot more sense than his opponent's silly (yes silly) suggestion that he will go through the budget line by line looking for waste. That's beyond vague. And the fact is, most government spending are cash transfers, not salaries to employees. Its really hard to cut.

The other side's notion of increasing spending on early childhood education should be frightening. Passage of such a program will either lead to a massive increase in Federal spending or worse yet, another unfunded mandate the states cannot handle.

McCain's ideas on taxes are good. Health benefits SHOULD be counted as income. For those who don't make much money, so what? A healthcare program worth a few thousand dollars won't lead to more taxes for them. But for highly paid lawyers and executives, health care is a benefit, just like other things we're taxed for. Companies USE benefits to lure employees.

The other side's idea of a tax cut or tax credits for "the middle class" is just as vague as the promise made (and not kept) by Bill Clinton. For those not paying Federal income taxes, this will be a wealth transfer… and another assault on Social Security. That's WHERE the money is, the social security fund. For a lot of people, the big bite out of their paycheck is the social security and Medicare payroll tax. So basically we'd be giving people an advance on their social security benefits, despite the fact that most Americans will collect FAR, FAR more from Social Security than they put in.

McCain has talked about seriously reforming Social Security. His opponent has not.

Lowering the corporate tax rate to attract more business to this country or to keep it from moving overseas makes overwhelming sense.

John McCain is a leader. He's been trained to be a leader since he started at Annapolis 54 years ago. He's commanded and inspired men (and women) for most of his life. The proof of this is in the number of former compatriots, colleagues and staff members who are volunteering to get him elected.

His Opponent was an associate at a law firm who at MOST has ever had about 35 people working for him. He's never chaired a Senate Committee or major subcommittee. He has very little experience working with foreign leaders or business leaders.

Having said all that, McCain's campaign has been a disappointment. It's been unfocused, lurching and way too negative. His original themes of "Country First" and/or "Real Change" were great, but they seemed to get lost.

I understand many of the motivations for picking Sarah Palin, but they haven't met the criticisms of her head on. She has many positives, but the campaign hasn't sold those. They've sounded whiny and defensive.

He has not explained his tax policies or health care policies adequately. And when attacked during the debates or in advertising (and Obama is running LOTS of attack ads here in Virginia), McCain has not responded. He had plenty of chances to counter his opponent on health care and tax policy and has not.

His rambling and "on the fly" style worked in New Hampshire because its so small, but it doesn't work on a National stage.

Yes, the economy and financial meltdown are problems, but a focused, disciplined campaign could have overcome that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Maggie Weaver update

One of the blogs I check regularly is the one chronicling Maggie Weaver's struggle with cancer. Maggie is a Baylor Law grad, and was a great student here.

Unfortunately, is sounds like the cancer has won a few battles. If you know Maggie (and even if you don't), keep her in your prayers if you are so inclined.


Wilmer McLean's House

I visited Wilmer McLean's old house last week-- it was more or less on my way, and I had always wanted to see it. Not that there would be anything so special about the house, as such; I suppose it was just a place I wanted to be for a little while.

The house isn't an architectural marvel, really. There are a few rooms downstairs and a few upstairs. It seems like the house has been fixed up to a certain degree, but not completely. When I visited, I was about the only person there which gave it an eerie calm. Outside, it was the kind of day you see in fall through spring in Virginia; chilly, overcast, but not exactly cold.

The town itself isn't so much, either. It is set on a hill, and the homes are widely spaced, with rough paths between. If you looked the right way from the porch of Wilmer McLean's house, you could see those rolling green hills that stretch for hundreds of miles next to the Blue Ridge itself.

148 years ago, it was not so quiet there. It might not have been the first time that Lee and Grant had met; both had been part of Scott's army which marched into Mexico City to end the Mexican War. But it is certain that they did meet here, and then it was over.

There is a heaviness there. I left Appomattox County and drove towards Lexington (where Lee found his redemption), ignoring the McCain and Obama signs and the frantic screeching from the radio talk shows. I wanted to keep that heaviness for a moment, because it was deep and sad and real.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The Cowboys and the Lions also have the same colors!

For some reason, a random guy at Taco Bueno asked me if I was a Cowboys fan. It seemed like a trick question-- I suppose that people around here are supposed to like the Cowboys. Plus, it's pretty likely that a Cowboys fan in Taco Buena has a gun, so I was a little on edge.

Eventually, I told the guy the truth, that I was a Lions fan, and he thanked me for the Roy Williams trade. He seemed strangely sympathetic, but then again, for the past few weeks the experience of being a Lions or Cowboys fan has been pretty much the same.

The guy pictured here is a Cowboys fan I happen to know. Perhaps now we can talk football without me feeling all bad about myself...


Dean Essary of Campbell Univ. Law School

A few years ago, Baylor Law lost two great profs-- Bill Underwood became the President of Mercer University, and Melissa Essary became the Dean of Campbell University's Law School.

Dean Essary was an important influence on me at a difficult time. One thing about becoming a law professor is that you don't really get training for what it is that you are going to do-- teach. Instead, you just walk into that first class and do it the best you can. I suspect that those first few weeks, my best was not very good.

Dispirited, I felt like perhaps it had been a real mistake to have moved to Texas to become a law teacher-- that I should have stayed a prosecutor in Detroit, where I had grown up, and which seemed very far away. But then, at exactly that point, I sat in on one of Dean Essary's classes.

Those of you who have been in her classes know what it was that I saw. She was passionate and engaged and warm and funny-- you could tell that she really cared about her students, and though she clearly expected a lot from them, it was just as clear that she was on their side. That's what I wanted to do-- I wanted to teach like that.

I'm still not there, I'm sure. However, it was a turning point for me, in knowing what might be possible, what I could aspire to. It made me want to do this thing well, and that made me want to keep going.

Last week, I got to give the Professionalism Lecture at Campbell and catch up with Dean Essary and her family. She is doing remarkable things there. The school has a focus similar to Baylor's (practical lawyering) and similar results (the highest bar passage rate in the state). As we walked down the hall, she was greeting the students by name, and it was clear she takes the same attitude to her role as Dean as she did as a professor at Baylor. Next year, she will take Campbell Law to new places, literally. The school is moving from rural Buie's Creek to Raleigh, the state capital. They are moving to a wonderful building just a block and a half away from the State Capitol building, and right in the midsts of the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

Probably, we all expected Melissa to do such great things, but that doesn't make it any less impressive.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Hey! Shouldn't someone have told me this?

Someone dropped me a note mentioning that my book showed up for pre-order on So, now I know a lot of things I didn't know before-- like what the cover will look like, and the list price ($16). Huh! I kind of like the black cover-- it reminds me a bit of the classic art for Spinal Tap's album Smell The Glove. I fear that perhaps I am to religious analysis what Spinal Tap was to music.

While nosing around Amazon, I also found out for the first time that apparently I have been cited in books about various things, including Martha Stewart, distributive justice, juvenile law, and overcriminalization. Why is it that of those four, I most want to find out about Martha Stewart?


Millionaires, Movie Stars and Moore

One of my stock speeches about the law is that when we do something right and good, we shouldn't expect acclaim-- for a bunch of people to suddenly start the slow clap or something. More often, when we do the right thing it gets us in trouble with those in power, and we end up penalized.

But not always.

Last week, I traveled to California to see American Violet, the film which largely depicts the actions of my former Crim Prac and Pro student, David Moore. At the center of the film was David's choice to make great sacrifices, without pay, to do the right thing in taking a difficult case (my main role was talking him into it). Seeing the film in a packed house which included several of us depicted in the movie, along with the writer, producer, director, and some of the actors, was an amazing experience. The movie was very well done, and won the audience award at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It should be distributed around Easter.

One great thing-- Baylor Law comes off very well in the film. One of the crucial scenes is set here, and it is clear that David's connection to Baylor was important to his becoming involved in the case.

Afterwards, we went on a boat cruise out in San Francisco harbor. For some of that time, I just enjoyed watching the movie stars and millionaires come up to David to hug him or get a picture with him.

Once in a while, things work out as they should.



Is it just me, or does it seem like maybe Snuggles the Fabric Softener Bear is going to kill this poor infant after the cameras stop rolling?

I would note, too, that wise commenters like the Spanish Medievalist think that Snuggles may play a role in a McCain presidency. Fear that!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Sunday Reflection: My sin for today

[I took this picture last week somewhere between South Boston and Appomatox, Virginia. I'm pretty sure the food isn't so fast there]

I'm writing this from my desk at work. I came in to go through some mail and catch up on some other things.

Then I thought about it. Jesus was pretty clear about keeping the Sabbath. I am not doing that right now, by any definition.

Christians, for the most part, have let go of the idea of the Sabbath as a day of rest. We go into work, we hit the mall, we may even take on additional responsibilities. Perhaps, though, God does have a reason for the Sabbath-- maybe He is right and I am wrong. Wrong to be here, wrong to be editing, wrong to be going full tilt on this seventh day.

And now, I am going to go home. Once again, my friend Blaine McCormick has a better vision than I do. I'm lucky to so often have friends who are wiser or more intentional than I am, to lead me in the right direction.


Put a fork in it, I think this is done...

Two developments, which I think may seal the deal:

1) Obama raised $150 million in September, a mind-boggling, record-breaking amount, raised in the middle of a terrible economic crash. The average donation was $86.

2) Colin Powell endorsed Obama this morning on Meet the Press. Like many others, I have tremendous respect for Gen. Powell, and I think this will have great sway with some independents. Powell was very critical of the choice of Sarah Palin for VP.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I still miss Bearmeat

With football season upon us, I once again feel sorrowful for the demise of Bear Meat, the best and pretty much only Baylor sports-comedy blog. We need you Bearmeat!

Maybe they left because Baylor kinda got better at sports, or perhaps it was other pressing duties. Regardless-- I miss you guys!

Friday, October 17, 2008


Movie Time Haiku Friday!

Picking up on the Waco Farmer's lead, I thought we could work on movies this week. You can use one of the movies he lists as a theme, or another one if you prefer...

Here is mine:

Green witches scare me
Every halloween, still
Blame Wizard of Oz.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday, with Guest Blogger The Waco Farmer

First, a list.

If I had to pick a baker’s dozen of great American films that tell our story, it might be these:

It’s A Wonderful Life
O’Brother, Where Art Thou?
That Thing You Do
Apollo 13
The Godfather
To Kill A Mockingbird/
Anatomy of a Murder
Wayne’s World
The Incredibles
Wall Street

An obvious critique of my own list: this collection is very white and male and, perhaps, overly sympathetic to the traditional view of America as the home of the brave and land of the free. So be it! On the other hand, there is not a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood film in the bunch. There needs to be. Ditto for Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Whose Ox is it Anyway?

SNL clip:
The above "Saturday Night Live" skit skewered Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, George Soros, “deadbeat” homebuyers, speculators, and Herb and Marion Sandler for their roles in the mortgage meltdown. Pretty clever. To my great surprise, it proved insightfully critical of Democrats.
Then, last week, without explanation, the clip disappeared off the program's website. Why? According to spokespersons from SNL and NBC, when pressed for answers, the bit "didn't meet [their] standards."
It did not meet SNL standards? Really!?!
What standards exactly? Standards of accuracy? Good taste? Fairness? Standards? Really!?!
Do you remember the one about (fill in your favorite tasteless SNL moment here)? But this one did not meet your standards?
No harm, no foul—I suppose. After a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on the conservative blogosphere, the skit is back on the website—but, come now, “standards”? REALLY!?!
The Good News: the Tina Fey/Sarah Palin material, evidently, continues to live up to all aforementioned SNL “standards.”
Does the Media lean left? Pretty hard to name a sitcom or drama with a conservative undertone. There is no conservative late night talk show or equivalent to SNL. I cannot think of a conservative David E. Kelly or Aaron Sorkin. Or, for some of us old timers, a conservative Norman Lear. Anybody?
Are there logical reasons for this? Certainly. Creative folks are naturally more prone to a “liberal” sensibility. Entertainment is a product of New York and L.A. Conservatives just aren’t that funny?
Am I whining? I don’t think so. I don’t mean to be. I have come to accept the world as it is. I am not one to rail against the liberal bias of the mainstream media. I am, in fact, a big fan of Saturday Night Live, and I have been, literally, since the very beginning.
I suffer their politics because I enjoy their art. Such is life. The perfect is often the enemy of the good.
Important Confession: I am also a big fan of NPR. I admire their artistry. I acknowledge their left-leaning bias, which often colors their coverage of Republicans and conservatives in unflattering and unfriendly ways. Nevertheless, I appreciate the skill and erudition that permeates every aspect of their operation.

However, there are times when the subtle bias of NPR makes me cringe. The other morning I was listening to story about a bell-weather county in Indiana ( ) in which the poor NPR correspondent, Howard Burkes, dutifully reported on three ignoramuses who wondered whether they could vote for a Muslim. Berkes immediately inserted into the audio narrative, with his well-modulated authority, a correction: “of course, he [Obama] has always been a Christian.” Later, a more enlightened white voter asserted (without challenge): "If Obama were a white man, I'd say he'd be way out in front here and nationally."

According to reputable national polls, approximately 90 percent of voters understand that Barack Obama is a professing Christian. Give national news organizations credit for digging up the ignorant tenth in disproportionate numbers to buttress the obligatory mention of the most famously false accusation in American history. Then, the corrective from Berkes: “he’s always been a Christian.” From birth? Funny—but also a cultural commentary that even this basic fact of Protestant Christianity somehow eluded this top national reporter. This is a mistake you might expect from one trying to make sense of a foreign culture. More importantly, it also omits a telling episode in the life of the candidate (the way in which Obama came to Christ). And then there is the ubiquitous assertion that “race” is somehow holding back this candidate. Presumably, if he were white (like John Kerry, Al Gore, Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale, or George McGovern), Barack Obama would be fourteen points ahead by now.

As I say, I love NPR—but this story is just another example of the unexamined assumptions that permeate even the best reporting in America.

Again, don’t hear me complaining. But I do get a little frustrated when I hear liberals rail against FOX News and other arms of the conservative media as somehow egregiously biased (compared, presumably, to the mainstream media culture).

FULL DISCLOSURE: I should mention that I do not watch FOX News on a regular basis. Why? I have an ultra-frugal cable package, which, blessedly, does not offer FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, or the Cartoon Network. Thanks be to God. However, my package does come with C-SPAN 1 & 2 (my wife has long suspected some kind of conspiracy regarding that piece of good fortune). FYI: there is no skullduggery involved—I am just lucky that way.

Having said that, I do monitor FOX News—and feel competent to comment on the following question:

How is FOX News different from the other network and cable news organizations?

Fox is not under the delusion of "objectivity." The liberal mainstream media labors under the self-serving certainty that they are reporting the news of the day in an objective way.

No matter how many studies show that an obscenely high percentage of "Beltway" reporters vote for Democratic candidates, mainstream reporters continue to argue that their personal politics do not impinge on their ability to report the news in a detached manner. They are professionals. In their own minds, they are expertly objective.

I have always believed that the FOX News slogan, "fair and balanced," was partly a parody of the mainstreamer’s tortured self-perception.

What do I mean by that?

Most of the Fox pioneers were veteran reporters and producers from the mainstream orgs (think Britt Hume formerly of ABC News). They had toiled in the fields of their oppressors for years. When they broke free and raised their own flag, they signaled their independence and defiance with a series of slogans like "We Report, You Decide" and "Fair and Balanced."

Moreover, they knew well that the competition would see FOX as conservatives reporting the news through a lens of conservatism. But they also knew that their liberal counterparts would NOT see FOX as their mirror image; the established media would continue to see themselves as faithful adherents to the sacred calling of objectivity; they would see FOX News as unwashed infidels desecrating the holy temple of objective journalism.

The FOX News brain trust fully expected that their conservative cable news network would make the mainstream newspersons apoplectic. Furthermore, I am convinced that they think the whole situation is quite hilarious.

Bottom Line: it really comes down to whose ox is getting gored. FOX viewers appreciate a reading and framing of the news sympathetic to conservatism. This makes some non-conservatives very angry. They should calm down, be more generous, and let conservatives have one news outlet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


NY Times/Lariat

It's not often that the New York Times follows up on a story which broke in the Lariat (Baylor's Student Newspaper) but this time it did.


Bush calls for nation to panic

I love following the news!

For instance, today's paper reported that "in a nationally televised address to the American people Wednesday, President Bush called upon every man, woman, and child to spiral uncontrollably downward into complete and utter panic."

Meanwhile, kids (real ones, not just intellectual infants) are finally getting active in politics!

Precocious Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad


Crim Prac and Pro

Once again this fall, I have an excellent group of students in my Criminal Practice class. I love teaching that class because the material is so real, in ways that students often don’t realize until they are out in practice. This week, they are arguing motions in front of Prof. Serr and Judge Manske, which for many of them will be their first appearance before a judge. For me, that first appearance came in as an AUSA, and I still had a lot to learn, frankly. For those of you who struggled on one issue or another, I can nearly guarantee that I did it worse (and in real life) those first few times, and that is one reason that I think it is so important to cross that threshold now.

Baylor students are amazingly resourceful, tough, and well-prepared, and once again I have to say what a pleasure it is to teach that kind of student year after year.

And now my former Crim. Prac. students are across the state trying cases...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



On Monday, William Kristol’s column in the New York Times had some frank, and good, advice for John McCain. Kristol (a conservative) suggests that McCain stop putting out ads every day and attacking Obama’s patriotism and instead return to strengths—relating directly to voters in town meetings and 30-minute ads, and emphasizing the positive, can-do spirit he displayed during the primaries.

As I have mentioned before, I am an Obama supporter because I agree with him on important issues. I do respect McCain, however, and think he could be doing much better if he took Kristol’s advice. John McCain right now is coming off as the cranky old guy yelling “Hey, kid—get off my lawn!” (or “Hey, that one—get off my lawn!”). That is not John McCain at his best, and his best can be excellent. I suspect (as does Kristol) that McCain is getting advice from a legion of advisors who are largely veterans of the Bush campaigns, and it is not very good advice.

In short, despite the McCain/Palin campaign’s self-description as Two Mavericks Out There Being All Mavericky, McCain has disowned or gone silent on many of the important positions which defined him as a maverick in the first place. Instead, he has moved towards the Bush Administration’s orthodoxy on policy matters. He really was a maverick within his party, too, at one time—in voting against the Bush tax cuts twice, in opposing offshore drilling, and in seeking to impose hire mileage requirements on carmakers. We don’t hear about that anymore. Most importantly, he sought to reform the terrible campaign finance system we have, which was a major cause of the financial debacle we now face. McCain was right to say that big money spending buys bad results in governance, but he is not saying that anymore, even though time has proven him right.

Whoever becomes president is going face horrific problems. It will be an extremely difficult job. However, it is also an opportunity—an opportunity to be one of those few people who do the right thing in difficult times in a place of leadership. I fear that John McCain is not only denying himself a chance at that with his current campaign, but that he is obscuring for history the very reason he could excel if given that chance.

[I tried to get IPLawGuy's opinion on this yesterday when I stopped by his house, but he was too busy laughing at my Prius]

Monday, October 13, 2008


GM focusing on merger instead of making decent cars

There were a few minutes there where I really was thinking better thoughts about GM. They are taking the Chevy Volt seriously, which is great, and GM does have some great engineers to work on a project like that.

But then I read about what GM management has been up to. Sure, I can see how diversifying their products by moving GMAC into the sub-prime mortgage lending might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but… it wasn’t. It was a terrible idea. Of course, there are federal bailouts for that kind of problem.

What there aren’t federal bailouts for is bad future plans (though I could be wrong about that, as this Republican administration continues to nationalize industries). And how is this for a bad plan: GM, a company suffering from a product line heavy on gas-guzzling SUV’s and a dealer network that is much too large, is considering merging with Chrysler—another company with an SUV-focused product line-up and way too many dealers.

How in the world does this make sense? It could be that GM is unable to obtain credit, and is after the cash Chrysler may have on hand at the moment. If so, that seems pretty short-sighted, given the long-term costs of completing a merger which is going to create a lot of dislocation and almost total overlap.

And the big loser in this plan (besides, in a few years, GM) will be… Detroit. Chrysler and GM both have large plants, engineering centers, and headquarters in and around the city. Sigh. Once again, being from Detroit is like being in love with someone who hurts you the same way again and again, and each time, somehow, you convince yourself that she will be different.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Sunday Reflection: Fear of Faith

Once in a while, I come across an athiest, and we will have a discussion of religion. We disagree, of course, but I usually find that athiests have given a lot of thought to their belief (and the conclusion there is no God is a belief, not a lack of one). Athiests, too, are usually willing to talk about how they came to believe that there is no God.

On the other hand, I more commonly come across people who have a faith (almost always Christianity) but don't want to discuss it at all. Not that I come to their door and ask them about it; but it isn't unusual to hear people say they don't want to talk about religion when it comes up in a conversation. I respect their wishes, of course, but it always makes me want to immediately violate their request and ask "why not?"

I suspect that for some people, there is a fear of being attacked for their beliefs, and in our society that is a justifiable fear at times. Others may feel insecure about their beliefs, or unsure of them.

If you feel this way, where does this come from? Are my suspicions correct that there is a fear of being attacked for your beliefs? [I would also love to hear from anyone who has done missionary work, including my Mormon readers]

Saturday, October 11, 2008



Yesterday, I saw part of a McCain rally on television. Sen. McCain made a good speech, but the crowd was scary-- they were yelling "terrorist" and things like that when Sen. Obama was mentioned. They clearly hate Obama, and it is hard to imagine a rational reason why people would feel that way.

Where is this coming from?

Friday, October 10, 2008


Haiku Friday Tonight, All Right!

I have music on my mind, and that's not a bad thing in these troubled times. So now, we should turn to music and haiku (and speaking of haiku, check out Kouji's haiku blog for better poems than mine).

The one and only theme this week is concerts, the best and worst.

You might expect from the title of this post that Black Flag was my favorite concert, but you would be wrong. [and what's the deal with Henry Rollins wearing the Brooks Residential College t-shirt in the Black Flag Video above?]

My real favorite was the Ramones:

Warehouse in summer
Two hours of three minute songs--
Gabba gabba hey!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday with Guest Blogger Lane!

I promised the Os that I'd do something on criminal law for Political Philosophy Mayhem Thursday (Now With More Lane!), but as (your) luck would have it, events have intervened to prevent this. Yea, the stars have aligned, the right incenses burned, the correct incantations have been said, and I present you with the result: a piece on my second-favorite legal subject, constitutional law (sorry, Professor G. That's just how I roll.).

Two Baylor professors, Perry Glanzer and Wesley Null, wrote an opinion column for the Austin American Statesman about the most recent of the culture war battles being fought by the State Board of Education. As a fan of education, the child of educators for several generations, a Baylor alum, and an amateur student of both philosophy and science, I've taken a special shine to this issue. Not least because last summer I was (briefly) a volunteer for the Texas Freedom Network, the best doggone bumdiggity pro-separation of church and state group in Texas.

In a nutshell, the current SBOE is run by crazy people that would rather use Texas students as pawns in a cheap political ploy to score points with far-right voters than, oh, educate them.

This fight is of course over that honored and time-worn tradition that, eighty plus years since the Scopes Trial, we still can't get right -- evolution. The SBOE wants to adopt a curriculum that includes so-called "weaknesses of evolution" in biology textbooks. Now, I'm all for a complex and nuanced presentation of the theory of evolution, abiogenesis, and so on. I think some trends in evolutionary studies (like evolutionary psychology ought to be rightfully criticized as insane. And I'm no fan of scientism, the view that all meaningful questions in the world can be answered by science. I'm very vocal about my disdain for philosophical naturalism.

But I am a fan of fidelity in education, and a proper division between scientific questions and non-scientific questions. Glanzer and Null's argument, reduced to a single line, is that by keeping science classes "pure" science, we are advancing an ideological agenda, and to avoid this, we should teach the complex and nuanced history of science, theology and philosophy... in science classes.

Nix that last clause, and I agree with it. But the philosophy of science is not a proper subject for scientific study; science studies the empirical, those things that can be observed, quantified and measured. Your biology class should content itself to studying genetic growth and change in the empirical world. If you wish to know about the interesting intersection of science, philosophy and theology, that should be reserved for a philosophy class when the philosophy of science is discussed.

In short, Glanzer and Null argue effectively that science without any sense of historicity is myopic, with which I agree. But the correct place to provide that historicity is not in the same class where you're teaching the theory and practice of science as an empirical discipline.

So, theologists: get your noses out of biology classes, and devote your time to developing a curriculum for teaching high schoolers about philosophy instead. Any attempt to inject not-science into a science classroom invariably strips the intersubjectivity from empirical inquiry and starts making tacit, uncritical value judgments (hint: that's not a good thing), because it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Teaching science, and only science, in a science class, neither favors nor disfavors religion. That's square with the Constitution. But allowing a value judgment about non-scientific matters, such as philosophical or theological matters, to be interjected into science does, whether that is the Christianity-heavy American creationism, Hindu creationism, Islamic Creationism, or just plain old crazy creationism.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Music query

I will probably go to one concert in Austin later this month. Which would be better?

1) Weezer (at the Irwin Center)
2) Ben Folds (outside at Stubbs BBQ)


The Second Debate

Gunman Kills 15 Potential Voters In Crucial Swing State

How'd they do? And what happens next? [I figure that we can have a little discussion now, since Lane is guest-hosting Political Mayhem Thursday, and he will probably want to discuss Rousseau or something like that]

Personally, I'm with Doug Berman in being disappointed that criminal justice issues remain out of the discussion in this election.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Garfield Minus Garfield

The Oct. 3 Garfield Minus Garfield strip (shown above) pretty much encapsulates the feeling of existential angst currently gripping office 315 and certain other parts of the law school.

For those of you not familiar with Garfield Minus Garfield, it is a web site which describes itself this way:

Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.

We can only hope that this doesn't all lead to another takeover by the French or temporary hiatus for the Razor.


Students and Food

I'm sensing a certain lethargy around the law school this week. Things are a little subdued in the halls and in class, and I've seen a couple people looking so schlumpy that I have asked them what is wrong.

Is there something in the air? Or do people just need some food? Or perhaps a weekend in Venice?

A helpful Razorite suggests more Ukulele as a pick-me-up (and this guy is really great):

Monday, October 06, 2008


The Beauty of Bob

At Sunday School yesterday, Bob Darden turned me on to this video:

One great thing about Bob Darden is not only does he follow such shenanigans, but (check it out)-- he's speaking at Princeton at their ground-breaking Center for African American Studies on October 23. Wow. Cornell West, Henry Louis Gates, Bob Darden...

I don't think he plays the Uke, though. This next video really makes ME want to play one:

Seriously, do you think we could organize a Baylor Law Ukulele Orchestra? We'd need someone to play bass...

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Sunday Reflection: Humility and Joy

While I often harp about how a true faith brings hardships, it has also been my experience that faith, and the humility that goes with it, also brings joy. Or, at the least, frees your soul to feel joy, the kind of driving around, singing at the top of your lungs type happiness that comes into a content heart every now and then.

In his own statement about his painting, my dad writes that painting brings "great joy and happiness" into his life. I know this is true-- I have seen it, the happiness and peace he seems to have when the physical representation is coming out the way he hopes. There is music in the studio, and this wonderful sensory assault-- the sounds, the smell of paint, the visual aspect of it all.

I feel the same thing when I write, at times. It's kind of the flip side of the good blues that my dad and I both feel at times. I sing and walk around, muttering to myself, putting together ideas and challenges, and then I laugh at what has come out. To get to that point, though, I do have to be at peace with God and humble, not pretending that I rule the world or am even the first one to have had a given thought. In that place, though... it's the best. And I am thankful.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Movie Reviews on the Razor!

1) American Carol

Rated R for graphic sexual content, nudity. Ever wonder what happened to Carol Brady? This movie reveals her life after Mike's grisly death, Jan's conviction at trial, Peter's shocking revelation, and Marcia's wedding. Now in her 70's, Carol still does things the Brady way! Not previewed for the press.

2) Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist

Rated R for bad driving, band names. This teen-based romantic comedy is almost entirely comprised of reckless driving (even without a single chase scene) and people trying to be heard over loud music in bars. Stars Michael Cera, cutting against type as a nerdy, good-hearted young man.

Ok, the truth is that I haven't been to a lot of movies. I did go to the Baylor football game today, though. That was kind of painful. I'll just say that Oklahoma is very, very good, and that Baylor is better than we have been (but still not nearly as good as Oklahoma).

Friday, October 03, 2008


Haiku Mayhem Friday!

First off, thanks to RRL for hosting Political Mayhem yesterday. Next week: Lane! And perhaps the week after that, the Waco Farmer...

If you see me at some point today and I seem kind of cranky, it's because I can't eat all day due to some medical tests at 4 pm. I'm big on feasting but not so much on fasting, so this will be a real challenge. Of course the students whose moot court round I judged today seemed to think I was pretty cranky already...

Here are this week's topics:

1) Bosniacs
2) Baylor v. Oklahoma
3) Jack White (of the White Stripes)
4) Lemmy (of Motorhead)
5) Stevie Ray Vaughn or any other guitarist
6) Raffi
7) Mavericks! (Dallas or otherwise)
8) The Devil Rays... in the playoffs?
9) Moot Court
10) The bailout vote (pt. 2)

Here is mine:

Run, Baylor Guys, Run!
No, the other way... oh, snap!
That will leave a mark.

Now it is your turn...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


The bailout evolves...

[Programming Note: Be sure to tune in for tomorrow's Political Mayhem Thursday, which will be guest-hosted by Razor provocateur RRL. In the future, I hope to have Lane, IPLawGuy, and the Waco Farmer guest-host as well, if they are willing]

I know that many people did not agree with my take on the bailout plan, but I do have some heavy-hitter economists on my side. Like me, they saw the bailout as a subsidy to investors at taxpayer expense. I do understand that there is a credit crunch right now, but credit is a market, and markets react. If there is money to be made in lending (and there is right now), the market will go there.

The newest proposal from the Senate combines the original $700 billion bailout (which will require tax money to fund it) with... tax reductions. Sigh. Seriously, could there be a more irresponsible move? Yesterday, I spoke to a fifth-grade class about the Constitution. One of them asked about the bailout, and if it was a good thing. My (too honest?) response was that it probably was a good thing for me, but a bad thing for them, as they will have to pay for it someday.


Another Osler Site (but not mine)

Now and then, I have put some of my father's paintings on this blog. If you would like to see more, check out his web site at

If you are an Obama supporter, he has a very good Obama poster available, reasonably priced!

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