Saturday, February 28, 2009


Sad to see you go...

I'm sorry to report that last month Craig Pankratz stopped posting on his blog, Weightier Matters. I'm sorry to see it close down, because I always learned things when I visited, and Craig is a wonderful person and an excellent writer.

Meanwhile, are there any new BLS blogs I am not linked to? It has been awhile since I revised my links...

Friday, February 27, 2009


Haiku Friday: Panda Edition

Oh, we're all concerned about ourselves, but... what about the pandas? Please craft your haiku using one of the following themes:

1) IPLawPanda
2) How the stimulus package can help pandas
3) Pandas: Not just for toilet paper anymore
4) Bobby Jindal or a panda?
5) Grar v. Argbf for DC Rep.
6) Summum panda
7) Can pandas form legally binding contracts?
8) Pandas on crack
9) Pandas on Death Row
10) Putting the "and" back in "panda."

Here is mine:

Really loves his cubs: Bamboo
Gobbling bouncy bears.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Finally! Representation for DC (and, er, Utah)!

In the undertow of all the discussion of economics, it appears there is a good chance that Washington, DC will finally get a voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As part of the deal, Utah will also receive an additional congressional seat. This will be the first enlargement of Congress in nearly a century.

It's hard to argue with the sense this makes-- the people of Washington certainly deserve to have a voting representative. Some fear that the next step will be two Senators as well. Of course, this is mostly feared by Republicans, as the Senators would almost certainly be Democrats.

But, as for the representative, there seem to be four logical choices:

1) Argbf
2) Eleanor Holmes Norton
3) Grar
4) Marion Barry

Who should it be?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Crim Prac and Sham Wow!

Yesterday in class, for reasons I can't recall, I used the Sham-Wow in a hypothetical. Probably, it was in my head because this stupid ad is in there and won't go away.

What is it with the Sham-Wow guy? He seems so intensely convinced of his own points. It's crazy that he is so impressed with a towel, but somehow... he makes it seem kind of normal.

Not that I bought a Sham-Wow or anything...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Heller not for Misdemeanants

Today's Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Hayes has Doug Berman baffled.

In short, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes possession of a gun illegal for those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.

As the case largely turned on the definition of a domestic relationship, it is odd that a gun case would not even mention the recently-recognized Second Amendment right of individuals to possess firearms.

Meanwhile, if you are a resident of Woodley Park or environs, watch out for Grar, who has been taking his new Second Amendment rights very seriously. He is, after all, a giant maverick panda.


On Rhetoric

I'm a lucky professor.

This quarter I get to teach two great classes: Oral Advocacy and Criminal Practice. I love them both, and I'm already able to tell that I am going to enjoy those two (overlapping) groups of students.

In Oral Advocacy (which I am lucky enough to teach with Hulitt Gloer), we have a blog to discuss the reading. So far, the writing has been exceptional, so check it out.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Chapter 324, in which I super-pathetically feel competitive with the Dalai Lama is a dangerous thing, at least for authors. People obsess over how their banks rank on Amazon (out of the 6 million titles listed), and it can either make or break your day. People warned me about this, so I don't look very often.

The deal is that Amazon updates the lists every hour for better-selling titles, and divides them up by narrow categories. Because of this, sale of a relatively small number of books can push a book up or down pretty quickly. The results are a snapshot that can be pretty darn artificial.

Still, it's good stuff for the occasional morale bump, illusory as it is. On Sunday night, I let myself look. Even though my book was being outsold by over 10,000 other books, in my narrow little category it was a little ahead of the Dalai Lama's, and way above Mike Huckabee's. And, of course, way behind a book about Christian sex.

1. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (Newly Expanded Paperback Edition) by Simon Wiesenthal (Author)

2. Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage, Third Edition
by Ed Wheat (Author), Gaye Wheat (Author)

3. The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis (Author)

4. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions by Peter Kreeft (Author), Ronald K. Tacelli (Author)

5. Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment by Mark Osler (Author)

6. Feathers from My Nest: A Mother's Reflections by Beth Moore

7. Ethics for the New Millennium by Dalai Lama (Author)

8. Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment by The Rev Canon Sally G Bingham (Author)

9. Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen (Author), Kelly M. Kapic (Author), Justin Taylor (Author), John Piper (Foreword)

10. The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life by Gary L. Thomas (Author)

11. Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace by Miroslav Volf (Author)

12. Child, Victim, Soldier Child, Victim, Soldier: The Loss of Innocence in Uganda

by Donald H. Dunson (Author)

13. Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective by Michael Schut (Author)

14. The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life
by Laura Schlessinger (Author), Stewart Vogel (Author)

15. Where Angels Fall: The Great and Terrible, Vol. 2 by Chris Stewart (Author)


Uniformity and the Justices

As usual, Doug Berman's blog has another fascinating angle on American law, this time pointing out the odd and striking similarities between the Justices of the United States Supreme Court (not that I'm not pretty happy with them right now). For example, despite their ideological differences:

1) Eight of the nine attended the same two law schools.
2) ALL of them came to the court from the same job: Judge on a U.S. Court of Appeal.
3) None of them have any experience in an elected office.

Does this matter? If any debate benefits from a diversity of viewpoints (a proposition I agree with), I think it does.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Me, the welcomed stranger

One week ago, on Sunday, evening, I was coming home from something and saw my dad (my parents are visiting) heading out in his car. I asked where he was going, and he asked me to come along and find out.

Unless you know my dad, you don't completely understand the import of that invitation. He is kind of unpredictable-- there's an awful lot of places he might have been going at 8 pm on a Sunday, from some barbecue joint to the home of people he had just met. This evening, I found out, he was heading for a local church that was hosting a benefit featuring several black gospel groups.

We did not fit in, and not just because we were white. We came in late, very late, unlike everyone else. We were wearing jeans, and the rest of the crowd was wearing dark suits or dresses, hats even. We sat in the back and listened. The music was wonderful-- Waco's own Gospel Sons were my favorites-- but we didn't stand up like most in the audience.

After the singing was over, my dad wandered off someplace, so I sat awkwardly by myself in a rear pew. I looked up at people as they walked by, and a few came over and shook hands. Before long, a man dressed in a suit came over and smiled kindly at me in my jeans and t-shirt. He handed me a little brochure. "Hey, friend, if you are looking for work, the census is looking for people. It's minimum wage, but it's good work." I took the brochure and thanked him.

I need to have that happen to me sometimes. It is a very real part of me that actually is that guy, the one who sits in the back of the church in the wrong clothes and may need a job, and I need to be reminded of that every so often. I think maybe that it is that part of me, the guy who looks like he might need a job with the census, who has a heart most open to the will of a loving God.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


It's my birthday!

And, sadly, many of the good party ideas are already taken.

As far as gifts go, I got a good one-- a very nice review of my book from someone who has written 13 books himself.


Alpha-Bit Mania

Hard to believe that's the same Michael Jackson we know now:

Oddly, I had a huge spike in hits this week on the Razor. This was attributable to two other bloggers linking to my cereal rankings: Brian Leiter, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and Kane, a DJ on "Hot 99.5" in Washington, DC.

It's a safe bet that the Razor is the only place those two intersect.

Anyway, it is my birthday today. I am 402 years old, or something like that.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Haiku of the Pikachu

I'll admit that I never got the whole Pikachu thing. He's a mouse, sure, but he's an electric mouse. I'm not sure, exactly, how an electrified rodent is something you would want to carry around on your shoulder, but that seemed to be his deal. Hmmm.

Anyways, here are this week's haiku themes:

1) The beauty of Spring
2) Pikachu
3) Breakfast cereals
4) The Reply-Letter Doctrine
5) The Clash
6) The tiny island nation of Tonga
7) Eleanor Roosevelt
8) My favorite statue
9) Drug day
10) Matlock

Here is mine:

Drug day dialogues
Took more class time than I thought:
PCP Monday!

Now it is your turn... the recipe is 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Obama's important decision that no one noticed

This week, while all the news was about the economy, President Obama made what may turn out to be the most important decision of his presidency-- and it wasn't about the economy.

This week, President Obama committed to sending 17,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, into a situation that one commander called "stalemated." This will bring the total number of troops up to 55,000.

Maybe, as in Iraq, a troop surge will allow us to "win" in Afghanistan (depending on how you define winning). If so, it will be viewed as a great decision.

That might happen. But, it might also work out another way. It might be that committing more and more troops to a country with a history of successfully resisting occupiers is a mistake, and one that is not retreated from easily.

So let's forget the economy. Might escalating American involvement in the Afghan civil war end up being the defining issue in the Obama presidency?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The blank spot on the map

As a freshman in college, I read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Like most people, it later helped me understand Apocalypse Now, but it (or rather, a very small part of it) also affected me much more deeply.

Conrad described the Congo as the "blank spot on the map." Of course, that was only true from the European perspective, but from that perspective it described one of the last remaining parts of the world for which the Europeans had little reliable information.

For four years, I pondered that concept, the blank spot on the map. There were not many unexplored places left-- there was a guidebook for everything. The best I could do, I figured, was a place where the information I did have was colored by ideology-- the Soviet Union. What I learned in school was that it was pure evil, and what they said about themselves described an unlikely paradise.

So, in 1985, I went to Moscow. It was a strange, scary, beautiful place. Part of what we had learned was true. People there were not free, as I had been told, but in a way that I hadn't imagined. Everywhere, there were watchers-- old women sitting outside apartment buildings, soldiers at intersections, men in suits near the official buildings... what took away freedom, as much as anything, was being observed all the time. It bore into me a central truth: That freedom and privacy are linked inextricably.

In that way, my trip to the heart of darkness was worth it, every bit.

What is it now? What is the blank spot on the map?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Top Five Breakfast Cereals

In order of quality, the top five cereals for aspiring lawyers:

1) Alpha-bits
2) Honey-Nut Cheerios
3) Frosted Flakes
4) Regular Cheerios
5) Total

The six worst:

124) Organic O's
125) Count Chocula
126) Quisp
127) Mr. T
128) Shredded wheat
129) Lucky Charms

[Note: Ratings based on a survey of one person, me]

Monday, February 16, 2009


The Trailer

American Violet will be playing at 4:30 on Sunday, March 15 at the Paramount Theater in Austin as part of the SXSW film festival (according to the official schedule). Sadly, the preview does not include the bolo-tie-wearing version of me, but the David Moore character (portrayed by Will Patton) figures prominently. Here's the trailer:


Respect my auth-or-it-tie, or at least my mild kung-fu skillz

This past Saturday, I surprised myself and passed the test for my yellow belt in Seven-Star Mantis. It seems I know more than I thought.

Despite the fact that my class includes several children and is generally very friendly, I was still pretty nervous. Don't think, though, that my experience was like this:

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Laws and Principles

One of the most striking things Jesus does, to my mind, is when he answers the trick questions of the Pharisees and scribes. At one point, they ask "which of the laws is most important?" The obvious answer is "they are all important" or something like that, given that there were hundreds of religious laws. But Jesus, instead, says that their are two great commandments: To love God and to love your neighbor.

That's a pretty revolutionary idea-- to start with principles instead of laws. Looking to principles is harder for us as individuals, because it forces us to decide for ourselves what loving God and loving our neighbors will be in real life. We can't get away with just formulaic following of the law, but must see our law-following as love for something.

When I teach criminal practice, this lesson comes back to me again and again. Because prosecutors have so much discretion, they must act not only from the law, but from principle, and the first step in that is deciding what those principles will be. Too often, it is that first step which fails.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Private Prisons Hit Bottom

Part of the incarceration boom of the past twenty years has been fueled by the industry that has grown up around the prison industry. In fact, many jurisdictions (including our county) have turned their jails or prisons over to private contractors;in other places, private companies have built prisons and jails from the ground up and charge local jurisdictions per prisoner housed.

There have been some serious problems with the privatization of incarceration (along with some benefits). Most recently, two judges in Pennsylvania are being charged with taking payments for sending kids to a juvenile facility run by a private concern. (story here).

Of the many stories about the law I have read, this is one of the most disturbing.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Haiku Friday-- Simpson Edition

So, I'm at the grocery store today and all of the stupid magazines by the check-out are full of articles about Lisa Simpson. "Is She Too Fat?" "Why is Everyone Talking About Her Weight!" Etc. etc. etc. It is all they seem to be reporting these days.

What's the deal? She's a cartoon character. Sheesh, some Korean animator slips with the pencil a little and everyone goes ballistic.

I invite you to haiku on the topic of celebrities generally.

Simpson in winter;
She is fed up with it all
In four hundred pix.

Now, it is your turn....


It was all...Yellow

My parents are visiting, so tonight I sent them on over to La Fiesta to hear Bob Darden and the rest of the guys (Steve Gardner, Barry Hankins, and, er, the bass player) in "After Midnight." Notably, they did a version of Coldplay's "Yellow" which was much better than Beaker's.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Stimuli

It's the topic I can no longer ignore.

First off, I think Pres. Obama is making a mistake with this stimulus package. As with Bush's throwing money at banks who then hoarded it or used it for acquisitions rather than loans, this is fiscally irresponsible. Worse, if the money is used to fund government programs, it will continue the project of enlarging government that is bad for out culture, our economy, and our souls.

Nevertheless, it might work. After all, the best precedent is Ronald Reagan. In 1982, he faced a steep recession. He responded by spending money hand over fist, almost all of it on military equipment made in the US. Over time, this did have a positive effect.

The problem, though, with both Reagan and Obama's plan, is that it is only half of the Keynsian project. What Keynes said was this: Governments should spend much less in good times, and much more in bad times. In other words, you limit government spending in the good times to prevent inflation, and you boost spending in bad times to keep the economy juiced-- the government just goes the other way from the rest of the population, to balance things out. The Reagan/Obama problem is that they are using the "bad times" recipe, when we have not kept to the "good times" part of the equation-- in the good times (especially in 2003-2007), the government spent gobs of money. This is one of those situations where we lack the discipline to do the hard part of a project, and thus we should not so easily jump into the easy part. We have not earned it, and our prior failures mean more spending now will just drive us into tremendous debt.

I think it is a mistake to do this so quickly, too. Bush showed us what a disaster that is with his bank bailout-- money that is now going to executive bonuses, among other things. Good job, Brownie!

Let the bad banks die. Let the bad companies die. That's how capitalism works. The other thing capitalism does is fill a vacuum, and that will happen in the capital markets. There will be money to be made by making loans, and someone will make it. If we believe in capitalism, or Keynsian economics, or anything worthwhile, we have to accept the whole. It is time to let capitalism work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


You, reviewer!

If you have had a chance to read "Jesus On Death Row," please write a review over on It can be good or bad, but please don't use any of the following words:


Tuesday, February 10, 2009



Hmmm... so if you were making a pitch for $1 billion in government money, what would you say? Remember that your proposal must emphasize the following:

1) Spend money quickly
2) Emphasize employment
3) Keep spending in the US
4) Avoid political issues

And don't worry-- this week's political mayhem Thursday will be about the stimulus package.


American Violet to play SXSW Film Fest on March 15

I have received word that American Violet, the film about my former student David Moore (and which includes a few appearances by a bolo-tie-wearing, Cotton-eyed-Joe-dancing version of me) will be playing at the South By Southwest film festival in Austin on Sunday, March 15. That's the last day of Spring Break here at Baylor, but I may try to make a trip down to catch it...

National release for the movie will be in late April.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Hammer of Thor!

Today was the first day of PC 1.

There was the scent of fear in the air.

Otherwise, I know not how it went. However, I would welcome any "First Day of PC Memories."

[Speaking of which, does anyone else find it creepy that Scott and White Hospital sponsors this "Scott and White Memories" thing at Baylor games? What is with that? "Gosh, remember when I got gangrene, and they removed my toe? Good times!"]


Burger Analysis

Kendall Cockrell did me the favor of sending me a link to this fine evaluation of Waco's burger joints. I would disagree with some of the analysis-- for one thing, I would rank the Health Camp higher. I have never been to either the Waco Stockyards or Griff's, so now I have some plans for the quarter.

Some of you know that I love to make burger's, always following the three simple rules I learned from my Uncle Scott:

1) Use ground chuck rather than any leaner beef.
2) Season with salt and pepper-- nothing else.
3) Turn the burgers only once as they cook.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Sunday Reflections: Praying for an outcome

Yesterday at our winter commencement ceremony, graduating student Chad Newman gave the invocation, and did a great job (I love it when students have substantive roles in commencement). One of the things he mentioned in the prayer was that Baylor students think of God variously-- including some who pray only every ten weeks (that is, during every finals period).

It was a good line, and true. I suspect that all of us have prayed for an outcome at one time or another-- that we pass a test, or get a job, or succeed in some other way. I know that there have been times that I have done so. However, I admit that I haven't done so in a long time, because there is something about it that feels wrong. In part, praying for an outcome seems to put us above God-- that is, we know what we need better than God does, so we direct him towards an outcome. There is a certain arrogance in that.

Or is there?

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Names that creep me out

1) Chee-tos. Are they really cheese-toes? I mean, they are shaped like toes and taste like cheese, but it just seems like such a baaaad idea.

2) Crickets. An insect-themed restaurant? Really? Was "Rodents" already registered as a restaurant name?

3) Rent-A-Tire. This one just kind of makes me sad. Renting your tires seems like such a bad idea.

4) Gummy Bears. Is it good for a food to be "gummy?" Are they made of gum?

5) Panda Toilet paper. It's just sad that they make toilet paper out of pandas.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Haiku Friday: North Korea-- Scary or Just Weird?

Kim Jong Il Announces Plan To Bring Moon To North Koreajavascript:void(0)
Let's haiku on North Korea this week:

Kim Jong Il! You are
The funniest dictator
Who makes your suits, dude?

Now it is your turn:

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Rush Limbaugh

I listen to Rush Limbaugh. In fact, I listen to him about every week. Right now, he is taking great glee in the fact that President Obama mentions him now and then, and claims Obama is obsessed with him. He also has said he wants President Obama to fail. Some people have gotten quite upset about all this.

People, wake up! It's a parody and always has been. Rush Limbaugh is a guy who is making fun of buffoonish blowhards by exaggerating those characteristics to the point where they are just funny. People who think he is serious are as deluded as the ones who think professional wrestling is real, that Spinal Tap was a real band, and that aliens were invading during the broadcast of War of the Worlds.

And it is funny!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


A new face at the law school!

Baylor has a new person in a very important office-- director of the career services office.

Michael Berry is that person. He's an impressive lawyer, and spent his prior career at Thompson and Knight in Dallas. He certainly knows how legal hiring works from the other side, and I'm excited to have him with us.

In this economy, career services is more important than ever, and we picked the right time to bring Michael on board.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Law and...

One of the trends in legal education over the past few decades has been the drift towards favoring scholarship which mixes disciplines-- law and religion, law and sociology, law and philosophy, etc. Top schools now make new hires who more often than not have a Ph.D. in a discipline other than law. These are usually professors of law who have never practiced law or wanted to, but instead went right into a Ph.D. program after getting a law degree (or vice versa).

Though one of my principle mentors was a pioneer in this movement and I love to do cross-disciplinary work, I am not a "law and ___" professor. I'm a lawyer. Not someone who once was a lawyer, but someone who right now represents people in cases, and cares about how that works at the ground level. I'm more happy about the case we won two weeks ago than any article I have ever written. I'm not ashamed to be a lawyer.

That's why, when I work in a cross-discipline, I don't pretend to be an expert in that field. In my book, I make it clear that I am writing as a lawyer, not a theologian- and I relied on real theologians to help me through that side of the analysis. When I teach across disciplines, I don't pretend to be an expert in that field-- instead, I work with someone who really is an expert in that field. This quarter, I will rely on Deanna Toten Beard, an amazing dramaturg; with Blaine McCormick, who always amazes me when we talk about negotiation, and Hulitt Gloer, a preacher and theologian who is respected and even loved by nearly all who come into contact with him. This is better than "law and ___" for both me and my students. For me, I get to learn from these three experts, all of whom are exceptional teachers. For the students, instead of getting one person who is adequate at both law and another field (and perhaps not so adequate at law), they get one person who is an expert in law and a second who is distinguished in that other discipline as a specialty.

Now, I'm looking forward to next quarter!

Interestingly, right after I wrote this, my publisher tipped me off to this review of my book on, which reflects what I had just written here...

Monday, February 02, 2009


Woo hoo! Chuy's in Waco!

Waco is a strange place for restaurants. We seem to have every chain imaginable up to a certain point of sophistication, somewhere between Outback Steakhouse and Pappadeaux's. Above that level are a handful of pretty good local places, like 1424, which is located in an old candy factory and secretly has excellent Greek food.

The news today, though, is good-- Chuy's is coming to Waco.

Chuy's is a smaller Texas chain with restaurants in Austin, Houston, and Dallas. It's an excellent restaurant, and I'm happy we'll get one nearby.

Someday, though, I hope that Waco will be more of an incubator for places that haven't been brought in from somewhere else.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Sunday Reflection: The Hidden God

On Friday night, I had the great pleasure of going to hear Dallas Willard speak at Truett Seminary. After a beautiful (as usual) introduction by Hulitt Gloer, Dr. Willard challenged his audience of ministers to look at the Bible in a new way. Specifically, he challenged them to see it as something that does more that reinforce power structures-- in fact, to see the Gospels as something that often opposes our power structures.

As part of this talk, he was brave enough to talk about the parable of the banquet guests, in which Jesus teaches us NOT to seek the best seat at a banquet, but to sit in the back. This is a risky speech to give at a banquet.

More importantly to me, though, he spoke of the "hidden God," the God that is hard to find for many of us at one time or another. He countered that thought with the idea of how large, how big, even the idea of God is. If there is a God, then He is so large that all around us is His. It's like the hidden Earth. We know that little bit around us, but nothing of nearly all of it; perhaps that is "hidden," but it does not mean the rest of the Earth does not exist. We know it does: we stand upon it. Yet so much more is unknown and never seen by us.

As the best sermons are, it was quite humbling.

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