Saturday, October 31, 2009


Baylor Football Memories

Have you ever noticed how home-team media outlets switch from team reports to nostalgic remembrances once the home team starts losing every week? Well, I have, and I think it is a great idea.

This morning's Baylor Football Memory comes to us from Doryell Anderson, a Baylor graduate from 1931 and a beloved figure in the Baylor community.

Much of my own attention to the sport of football was due to the interest of my good friend, Thaddeus (“Tailpipe”) Laker, who was a renowned player of the time. My God, how that Tailpipe fellow could run! In 1929, he beat UT-Austin (then known as Texas Normal School for Women) singlehandedly. This was before the the days of all this sissy “equipment” the players wear now, of course. Tailpipe scored the last 37 points in a 67-32 win with no teeth left in his mouth—after the game we scavenged then up in a Bell jar and old Doc Ritter put them back in with a rivet gun on the train back to Waco. Tailpipe was the greatest yapback in SWC history, and now I hear he’s living in a van outside of either Bruceville or Eddy.

I don’t think many teams use the yapback any more—you need the exact right player. The thing was, then, that people would talk out on the field a lot. And the yapback, he would get up on the shoulders of the halfback and yell stuff at the fellows on the other side, over the head of the linemen. All kinds of stuff—about their grades and their girlfriends. About the only position like it now is the coxswain in the row-boating races. I think there would be a lot more interest in that row-boating if they let them have a little tackling now and then. That, or small arms of some type. Then they would get people out to watch!

My time at Baylor included some of the most memorable football games in the history of the institution. This would, of course, include the victory in 1929 over The Booze-Soaked New Orleans School of College University [sic] (now Tulane), and the 1930 game against A & M. During this period, Tailpipe Laker was privileged to play with one of the best quarterbacks Baylor ever had, old Fuzzy (“Richard”) Murphy, who was the qb the last half of the season of ‘30. He was about 5’1”—darn close to being one of the “little people” as they call them now. But that man could throw that bean out of the stadium... the last game of the season was against A & M (which was then still known as Childress Music Academy and Agriculture Station). The game started at 7 in late November in old Garf Stadium, where the run-down Sonics is now. I can’t remember why they had a 7 pm start—might have been a radio broadcast issue—but it was dark as black beans by the second quarter. Old Richard set out torches around the huddle to diagram plays, and had everyone run to one side of the end zone. He’d make a throwing noise, and secretly had a Western Union boy run the ball into the end zone. Worked six times in a row, and Baylor won 44-12. I think Baylor should try that play today against Nebraska!

Friday, October 30, 2009


Haiku Friday: Sounds

I love music. Not just the kind I but from iTunes, but the noises which creep into life from every direction-- the sounds of birds, of traffic, of children playing. Let's haiku about sounds today.

Here is mine:

Ssss...Ssss... Ssss.... Ssss... Slam!
That screen door was old and loud;
The sound of summer.

Now it is your turn. Make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and we will be good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Afghanistan

I am troubled by the resignation of Matthew Hoh, a foreign service officer in Afghanistan. A former Marine Captain, Hoh said this in his resignation letter:

I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there," Hoh said. "I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them -- not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they're fighting us is because we are occupying them.

There are three basic options in Afghanistan:

1) Pull out.
2) Keep our present force there.
3) Increase our forces there and try to stabilize the entire country.

Unfortunately, is seems that President Obama has embraced the worst option, which is number 2. It appears that we are propping up a corrupt government while making little progress against either drug producers or Al Queda. So why keep doing it?

What do you think is the best option?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Lasting Liberty

I am happy to point people to a new blog from a former student, Lasting Liberty. Aside from the fact that it had a very thoughtful review of Jesus on Death Row today, I appreciate its well-written conservative viewpoint, which intersects with my own views at times and diverges at others.

This is a particularly important time for non-sensationalistic conservative critiques of the present administration. I am saddened that so many people consider Rush Limbaugh to be America's most important conservative voice. It isn't true, and it shouldn't be. Well-reasoned argument is needed, as always, and I am glad to see new blogs filling that role.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The Loss of a Bookstore

Not so long ago, most towns had several specialized stores-- a bookstore, a toy store, a men's clothing store, a small electronics store. Now, most of them are gone, swept away by the tide of cheaper goods sold at big-box stores.

What I miss most are the book stores. In my home town, there was a store called "Reading in the Park" which was small but packed with good books. I often sat on a stool and browsed, then bought. I knew the people who ran it, and they knew me.

Books are cheaper at the big stores we have now. Still... the experience is not the same.

Were we wrong to change our society so strikingly to get the cheapest things?


Mystery photo

Can you identify this building?


95 vacancies and little movement...

As this excellent piece describes, President Obama is struggling to fill the 95 vacancies in the federal judiciary. There seems to be two main problems. First, the Obama administration is very slow in coming up with nominees. Second, Republicans in the Senate are challenging virtually every nominee. While prior administrations have faced challenges in the Senate, challenging every nominee seems to be a new tactic, and a dangerous one.

Over the past two administrations, I have been saddened by the tactics of both parties. Far too often they try to gain partisan advantage or live out grudges rather than do the business of this country in good faith.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Things that won't happen at Baylor, # 239

It seems that my alma mater is not quite as conservative as it was when I was there...


You had me at "bankrupt casino"

More bad news from Detroit here. From the article:

In a crowded ballroom next to a bankrupt casino, what remains of the Detroit property market was being picked over by speculators and mostly discarded.

After five hours of calling out a drumbeat of "no bid" for properties listed in an auction book as thick as a city phone directory, the energy of the county auctioneer began to flag.

"OK," he said. "We only have 300 more pages to go."

There was tired laughter from investors ready to roll the dice on a city that has become a symbol of the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, pressures on the industrial middle-class and intractable problems for the urban poor.

On the auction block in Detroit: almost 9,000 homes and lots in various states of abandonment and decay from the tidy owner-occupied to the burned-out shell claimed by squatters.

Taken together, the properties seized by tax collectors for arrears and put up for sale last week represented an area the size of New York's Central Park. Total vacant land in Detroit now occupies an area almost the size of Boston, according to a Detroit Free Press estimate.

The tax foreclosure auction by Wayne County authorities also stood as one of the most ambitious one-stop attempts to sell off urban property since the real-estate market collapse.

Despite a minimum bid of $500, less than a fifth of the Detroit land was sold after four days.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Humble learning

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

Today's Sunday Reflection is coming late in the day, as I just got home from the round-up at a friend's ranch. It was one of two experiences I had this week where I was suddenly the dumbest person in the room, thrust into the midsts of professionals practicing a craft very different than my own.

First, on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I went to read-throughs for our performance of The Voysey Inheritance on November 3. Nearly all of the other participants are professional actors, and I loved to observe the way they approached the story and the characters. There was a professionalism to it which I found striking. I was the novice in the room, and it was clear to me, perhaps for the first time, what art there is to acting when it is done well.

Then, today, I went out for the round-up. Cowboys came in to gather up the cows, bring them in to a corral, then vaccinate them and separate the calves from their mothers. It was fascinating to watch this process from within, and see the way these professionals do their work. They know what the cows respond to, and made complex things seem easy-- the mark of the professional in any vocation.

In both settings, I was humbled. I did not know what to do, where to stand or sit, what was about to happen. I was the one present who knew the least about that craft, and everyone knew it.

It was great.

That humble moment is so important for each of us, and when I (surprisingly often) find it, I revel in it. I am quiet in those times, and listen far more than I talk. I let myself be impressed with those who have skills I don't, and recognize what those skills bring to my life and the greater society. Each time, I leave that setting with a certain awe and gentleness, and my own importance seems lessened. And, somehow, always, I come back to God in those moments, because humility is at the heart of that relationship, and that is a gift I have been given today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Homecoming Saturday

It is homecoming today both at Baylor and at my undergrad alma mater, William and Mary. Today I had discussions with two of my W & M fraternity brothers (IPLawGuy and TallTenor), and it made me wish that I was back in Williamsburg for the the festivities.

Williamsburg was a magical place in October. There were cool nights, but not cold. On a weekend, I remember walking across the sunken gardens to my dorm, and seeing people crossing over in the fog going this way and that. Some coming back from a dance, dressed up; others in a group, singing. I am the kind of person who at times would just stop and watch everyone else. At least once, the sunken gardens was home to an incredible, gigantic snowball fight.

Then there was the year, 1984, that I accidentally split the homecoming parade into two parts, going in opposite directions. It's a long story involving Linda Lavin, a drum majorette, and two years of probation for old Theta Delt, but this is probably not the time and place to tell that particular story.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Haiku Friday: Fall Saturdays

As I have already written, I love Saturdays in the fall. Let's haiku about that today. Feel the power of the pumpkin.

Here is mine:

The smell of wood fires,
The sound of a marching band,
One red leaf (perfect).

Now it is your turn. Just make it five syllables for the first line, seven syllable for the second, and five for the last line. Thanks for haiku-ing!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


"Blink... Blink.... Biden!"

Gaffe-Prone Biden Embarrasses Nation Yet Again By Sneezing During Meeting


Political Mayhem Thursday: Medical Marijuana and Federalism

I stole both the image here and the idea for this topic from the good folks over at The Davis Firm. In the post linked here, the Davises argue against the new federal policy asserting that the feds will not pursue prosecution of users of medical marijuana in states where that use is legal.

Unlike the Davises, I applaud the new policy, and for conservative reasons. I simply don't see the point of exerting federal power over the states when it is not absolutely necessary or related to an essential policy goal. Some conservatives call this "federalism." Too often, conservatives seem to believe in this principle up to the point where some dumb state goes and does something they disagree with. Oddly, this conservative opposition to federalism most often comes up when federalism augers in favor of personal freedom, as in this case.

Certainly, I am not someone who is in favor of legalizing drugs as a policy matter. I am, however, in favor of respecting the choices made by different states on this issue. The idea that every federal law must be enforced all the time is something that no realistic person expects. Instead, we rely on prosecutorial discretion to prioritize which statutes will be vigorously enforced. What we see in this decision is an exercise in prosecutorial discretion based on the conservative principle of federalism. I don't have a problem with that.

Do you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Hospitality and Light

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

I love this photo. It's not new-- it is from a dinner party once, where people went out to the guest house for drinks before dinner. There is something about the light that is so nice; there is a warmth in light like that, the kind that seeps out of a happy place at night, when the air is a little cool. I love the framing of the people through the door, too... there is a sense of comfort there.

This is a wonderful season for hospitality. This weekend, I will make some corn chowder, which is perfect for fall. I have a recipe, but it is more of a general suggestion than anything. Other than its general admonition not to boil the milk, I will vary and deviate (as we say in the sentencing world). I may pick some of my rosemary and thyme, throw that in, and some wine, and scallops, and the corn, which I will cut off the cobs with a thick sharp knife. I love all of that, even the cutting and chopping, the sounds and smells of it.

Speaking of food and hospitality-- I know that I promised recipes, and I have pretty much failed to deliver. Today's Baylor Lariat, though, actually had a recipe that sounds great, provided by Religion Professor Eric Holleyman. Check it out:

Coffee Rolls

2 packages yeast
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
5 cups plain flour
Brown sugar
Chopped pecans

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons warm milk


Mix 1 ¼ c. flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl.
Heat milk, water and shortening to lukewarm and pour over flour mixture and beat 2 minutes.
Add eggs and ½ c. flour and beat 2 minutes on high.
Stir in additional flour to make soft dough.
Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead 20-25 times or until satiny.
Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise until double.
Punch down.
Divide into 3 equal parts.
Roll into rectangles and spread with oleo and sprinkle with mixture of brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon.
Roll, shape into ring and place in pans.
Let rise until double.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and warm milk.
Drizzle over warm rings and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Most Annoying Television Character Ever

Ralph Malph. There is no one else close.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Report on the Presbyterians

Yesterday's talk at the First Presbyterian church here in Waco went very well, thank you. I tried something different this time in talking about my book-- I ditched the powerpoint and my notes and just spoke extemporaneously. It worked, I think. There was a good flow to the conversation and even a lot of laughing (which is unusual when you talk about the death penalty). There was a relatively large crowd, I was told, and they were warm, engaged, and very hospitable, which made everything better. It seems like a great church.


And her son, Elvis.

I received the following email last week:

Dear Beloved One,

Greetings to you and your family in the name of God. In my search for a reliable and God fearing person and having gotten your contact through prayers and pains taking efforts via searching I made on the internet on my bed side. Presently, I'm in a hospital where I have been undergoing treatment for Esophagi Cancer.

Though it’s a sad and long story but I will cut it short for your quick and easy understanding. I am Anna Ilouba (Mrs.) widow to Late Mr. Edward Ilouba, former Defense attached to Greece Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire. My husband was murdered alongside our only son Elvis by those who are envious of his position in the same office..

Before his death he made a vow to use his wealth for the down trodden, orphanages and the less privileged in the society. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a God fearing person who will use this money to assist the poor persons, orphanages, widows as I have earlier stated.

I took this decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and my husband’s relatives are not inclined to helping poor persons and I do not want my husband's hard earned money to be misused or spent in an ungodly manner. What I required is your honesty, trust and sincerity. Any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing for another individual for this same purpose.
Remain Blessed.
Anna Ilouba (Mrs).

Here are some questions I have, and would welcome any answers you all might provide:

1) What would count as spending money in an "ungodly manner?"

2) Why did the Greek embassy attach a defense?

3) Assuming that "esophagi" is the plural of "esophagus," would it be possible to live with two esophagi?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Sunday Reflection with Guest Reflector Craig Pankratz

I have asked one of my former students (and current friends) Craig Pankratz to give this week's Sunday Reflection. Craig was a huge help to me while he was in law school, and probably I learned more from him than he did from me. He is a man of deep and abiding faith, and I often look to his example in living according to one's beliefs. If you don't recognize a cite in his post, it is from the Book of Mormon. In this post, he reveals something about himself I didn't fully realize until now.

There is an aspect of salvation through Jesus Christ which Christians often overlook. We tend to focus on saving Grace, but we don't just need salvation from our sins. We also need salvation from the challenges, trials, sicknesses, sorrows, and heartache which accompany everyday life. And Jesus provides that, too. We'll call this "sustaining Grace."

No one is immune from trouble. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only perfect person to have ever walked the Earth. He went about doing good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and caused the lame to leap, the blind to see, and the dumb to speak. He forgave sins. And He blessed children.

Yet His own community rejected Him. His brothers and sisters, although they did eventually believe in Him, did not believe that He was the Christ. The ruling classes of the Jews sought to destroy Him.

In Gethsemane, Jesus' suffering for the sins of the world was so great that He bled from every pore, and one of His best friends, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. He was taken and judged by the rulers of the Jews. They mocked Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and delivered Him to Pilate to be crucified.

Pilate sent Jesus to be scourged. The whip the Roman soldiers used to scourge Him tore away chunks of His flesh. Then the soldiers made a crown of thorns and forced it onto His head. They mocked Him and eventually laid a cross on His back. The strain was so great that He could not carry it, and a spectator was forced to carry the cross for Him.

The Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross. Passers by continued to mock Him. And in the darkness of Golgotha, God Himself forsook Jesus.
He was alone in His agony.

So Jesus understands perfectly what it is like to suffer as we do because He went "forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; . . . And he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." Alma 7:11-12. "Surely, he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Isaiah 53:4.

And when the scriptures say Jesus took upon Himself our infirmities, griefs, and sorrows they mean all of our infirmities, griefs, and sorrows. There is no pain, sorrow, or affliction that He didn't feel. He knows what it's like to be beaten, tortured, murdered, hated, sick, depressed, anxious, and what any other problem common to us feels like.

I know that.

For years, I have struggled with depression. It's my own "thorn in the flesh." See 2 Corinthians 12:7 It started in High School. Off and on for years, I would experience episodes of deep depression. More than five years ago, after my application to become a Seminary Teacher―similar to a youth pastor―was denied, I fell into the deepest depression I have ever experienced. It's been laced with feelings of extreme inadequacy and worthlessness. And throughout law school and these first few years of law practice, I've struggled not to give up and surrender to it.

But knowing that Jesus felt it, too, I know that He knows how to succor me, and in my agony, He has not forsaken me. Often, I have felt Him wrap His arms around me to sustain me. Still, He hasn't yet removed this thorn from my flesh, but He continues to buoy me up in my weakness with His sustaining Grace. And I draw strength from His words: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9.

And Jesus’ grace is sufficient for you, too.

Truly, sustaining Jesus has descended below all things to lift us to Him. D&C 88:6; D&C 122:8. And when we suffer, we need not suffer alone. For Jesus stands with open arms to receive us, to bind up our wounds, to dry our tears, and to bring us Home.

Friday, October 16, 2009


October, 1980

If I were to look back on my life and stack up all of my favorite days, many of them would be Saturdays in October. October has that sweet edge; we are drawn to the beach as the sliver between land and ocean, and October is that soft sand between summer and winter. It is a wonderful time to reflect, to feel deeply, to fall in love or to let love go, the perfect balance between the languid days of summer and the frantic holiday blur.

That was one Saturday in October... twenty-nine years ago. Grosse Pointe North High School was exceptional at one sport, cross-country, and I was a runner.

October in Michigan is when the leaves come down, red and yellow and deep maroon. We woke up early that morning, and walked to school. We got on a bus full of runners and friends and a few coaches here and there, all of us nervous and quiet. We got to the course, far out on the fringes of the city, and the course was laid out over rolling hills carpeted with that red and yellow and deep maroon. We set out, breathing on our hands and seeing the mist of our breath. There were sixty-some of us, pre-running the course, a river of gold because green and gold were the colors of our school, the color we wore into battle. The seven of us on the varsity ran in the front and at times I loved to look back at that ribbon of friends and teammates stretched out behind us, like a yellow cat's curving tail.

And then we would run, for real, and my seventeen-year-old body did what a seventeen-year-old body can for sixteen minutes or so, feeling my stride and fixing my gaze on the person ahead, to capture and defeat him through force of will until the three miles were behind me. That meet, we won, and we laughed as they gave us a trophy at the top of a hill and the colors of the other teams mixed together as the buses started their engines. Our bus took us back to the school, and there was a football game. This I remember clearly, surely-- during the game, they introduced those of us who had won it, had us step out on the field one-by-one with two girls so we could wave as they shook pom-poms and smiled, and the football players glared at us through their face masks: nothing felt so good as their jealousy.

I walked home, and my dad was laying down bricks, so I helped. We talked about what had happened, and he showed me how to herringbone the bricks, interlocking them on a bed of sand, and they are still there (both the bricks and my dad). Evening came; there was a dance, and I took a girl in a green dress. There was a song, later on, a slow dance, and I tentatively kissed her neck and she kissed me back with warmth and passion and that mixed with everything else into something like joy. I came home, and my mom was at the breakfast room table, reading, smiling back at me because she felt what was in my heart, and there was never a house so warm and loving and kind and good as that one, that moment, that day, that October Saturday.


Haiku Friday: Siblings

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. I called and asked what she wanted, and the answer was... ice hockey skates. Hmmm. I figured roller derby would be enough violence for her current life, but who knows?

Haiku today about a sibling. If you don't have a sibling, you can borrow one for today. Here is mine:

She built a koi pond
And now she wants skates; all this--
A life lived full.

Now it is your turn. For you haiku novices, the first line should be 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line is 5.

Should I have a prize this week?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Compassion, Christ, and Government

I am often fascinated by odd juxtapositions between faith and politics. For example, my book resulted from my realization that Texas had both a highly Christianized political culture, and also one which strongly favored the death penalty-- meaning that many political actors fervently supported the death penalty while professing a faith based largely on an unjust execution.

Another intriguing juxtaposition I have noticed is found within conservative Christians who at once believe that Christian influence should be felt within the political sphere, yet are strongly opposed to government programs which would help the poorest of the poor. It is inarguable that Christ commanded us to help the poor; yet there seems to be the firm belief by religious conservatives that this should not be done through government. Where does this come from? How is it consistent with the faith to turn government's back to the poor? What, exactly, is "Christian" about that position?

I find this juxtaposition particularly puzzling when these same Christian conservatives argue for an ever-growing military. The use of violence is something Christ preached against. How can a pro-military, anti-poor political viewpoint be "Christian?"

Because I am generally in favor of small government, I do have some of my own answers to these questions, but I am interested first in hearing what others think.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's out! Get American Violet on DVD!

American Violet is now out on video, and you can get it here. It really is a good movie, and it (properly) makes Baylor Law seem like a great place.

If you find the movie inspiring, send a note of congratulations to David Moore, Baylor Law grad and one of the real heroes of the story. He deserves it. In this clip, you can see David's character, who is played in the movie by Will Patton.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


To Austin... and Beyond! An Update.

October and November will be jam packed with fun for me, as I will have the opportunity to try some new things in Austin (shown above) and other exciting locales. Here is the schedule at the moment:

Sunday, October 18, 5 pm, First Presbyterian Church, Waco (11th & Austin)
This will be a lecture on "Jesus Christ, Defendant," and is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 3, 6 pm, Kayser Auditorium, Baylor School of Business
In what may be the strangest of these appearances, I will be participating in a dramatic reading of David Mamet's adaptation of The Voysey Inheritance as part of the Business School's Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum.

Thursday, November 5, 2:30 pm, Federal Courthouse, Austin, Texas
I'll be leading an ethics seminar for federal defense lawyers on "Dealing with Prosecutorial Misconduct."

Monday, November 16, Harvard Law School
The Harvard NAACP is sponsoring my talk on "Crackheads, Senators, Money, and Power: A Social and Legal History of Crack Cocaine."

Wednesday, November 18, Travis County Women Lawyer's Assoc., Austin
This will be a lunchtime talk on "Capital Punishment and Faith."

Thursday, November 19, Federal Courthouse, San Antonio, Texas
This is another ethics seminar for federal defense lawyers on "Dealing with Prosecutorial Misconduct."

Then, I'll take a nap.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Law School Conundrum

The law school curriculum sometimes seems very odd.

At better schools, most of the students aspire to high-paying jobs with large law firms. Few of them aspire to a low-paying general practice. Yet, our curriculum is crafted so as to train our students to be general practitioners. That is, we make them take roughly equal amounts of torts, property, contracts and criminal law in the first year. In the upper-level courses they may specialize to some degree, but rarely does that specialization include much that overlaps with what people at big firms actually do. That is, in both traditional classes and clinical offerings, there is often relatively little that covers the two primary functions of large-firm partners and associates: (1) The discovery process in litigation, and (2) the nuts-and-bolts of transactional law practice. Nor, at most schools, is there much to prepare students for what actually happens in criminal practice. (I am speaking generally here-- Because of Practice Court and some other aspects of the curriculum, I think that this is much less of a problem at Baylor than it is at some other schools).

The outcome is that we have trained best those who have done the worst and are relegated to a general practice, as they are unable to get large-firm jobs. (Please understand that personally I think these general-practice jobs actually can be far superior to large-firm practice; I am simply dealing with what I perceive as the desires of most students). Meanwhile, we have provided the least relevant training to those who do the best, and get the plum big-firm jobs.

Of course, some grounding in the basic fundamentals of torts, property, contracts, and criminal law is essential. Still, are we over-doing it? What would be the right balance?

[Note: Cross-posted at Law School Innovation]

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Freedom and Faith

Some thoughts on church and state:

1) The Constitution does not erect a wall between church and state. Rather, it requires freedom of religion and prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Beyond that, we are left to determine the relationship between church and state as a matter of policy.

2) In determining that matter of policy, I think a total separation between church and state is best not only for the interests of freedom, but for both the church and the state.

3) Total separation is best for freedom because it best embodies the message that we truly are free to choose our faith. With total separation, there is no chance that our choice will cause us to somehow be disfavored by the government.

4) Total separation is best for the church, and especially the Christian church, because government does not do a good job running things like a church, or even influencing it. Look at it this way: There are several thousand religious groups in the US, and one federal government. That means that if the two are integrated in any way, the government will require some kind of standardization, which will dilute or twist the views of any one group. Even the singular "In God We Trust" seems fine until we view it from the perspective of the polytheistic Hindu faith. How would I feel in a Hindu state seeing "In Gods We Trust" stamped on everything?

5) Total separation is best for the state because it is not dragged into arbitrating disputes between thousands of groups, or becoming an instrument of oppression for one group or another. There is not a religious majority in the United States, though most people are Christian, because Christians are divided into thousands of sects with radically different ideas and beliefs. Where do we look to find the viewpoint of this "Christian Majority"-- the Pope? The Mormon Elders? The SBC? The Quaker Yearly Meeting?

Freedom from government is good, especially in an area like religion, but the cost of that freedom is that the government will not promote our own particular view. We should embrace that freedom, with its cost, under the discretion allowed us by the Constitution.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


AAA v. Freedom

I thought I would share a letter to the editor I found in this morning's Waco Tribune Herald. It is from Kyle Pendergraft, who believes that the insidious American Automobile Association is assaulting our freedom by trying to limit texting while driving:

I’m shocked more people aren’t reacting to the full-frontal assault on our freedom and privacy that’s now being attempted by AAA. For those unaware, the national motor club is on a crusade to make it against the law to send, receive or read text messages while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Think about that: The AAA wants to institute a 50-state moratorium on sending, receiving or reading text messages. How could anyone possibly enforce that? More importantly, why is this even being discussed?

Regardless of all the socialist hope and change that so many people in this country think they want, our society is founded on the concept of private property. In a free society, the things you purchase and pay for are your belongings to use at your discretion. A terrible idea, I know.

Horrifyingly, an alarming number of people seem to think this kind of action is necessary for public safety. They argue that many people are injured or killed in auto accidents because of reckless or distracted driving.

Instead of trying to steal our freedoms, why doesn’t AAA push for stricter qualifications on licenses? Instead of focusing on feelings and multiculturalism, school kids could take a course in driver’s education, something actually relevant and useful. Those with enough skill driving a car don’t need the nanny state holding their hand while they’re doing it.

But that would make too much sense and just might require standards and efficiency. Gasp. Allowing any person or entity to infringe upon private property by dictating something as insidious as AAA has is an affront to liberty. Take nothing for granted. We are under attack.

Kyle Pendergraft



A comment worthy of comment

Back on March 22, I posted a note wondering why it is that in movies, the spaceship doors open so slowly, despite their supposed "advanced technology." (As a commenter noted, one should wonder, too, why all those flashing lights are necessary). I just noticed, in response to that post, one of my favorite comments of the year, from Razor Hero of Writing Carl Hoover:

The slow door technology was created for the third generation SUV saucers, allowing soccer mom aliens time to enter the vehicle when their three arms were hampered with grocery and shopping bags.

Though obviously a problem in hyperactive human action movies, the technology was still an improvement over first-generation saucers, which often sported a long nylon filament on top and had no doors at all (see "Plan Nine From Outer Space").

Friday, October 09, 2009


Haiku Friday: Lamentations

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

I think that the book of Lamentations is perhaps one of the more under-rated books in the Bible. It is short and simple, lamenting the fall of Jerusalem to the Chaldeans about 586 BC. The tragic tone of the book is striking, even as faith is maintained. Some of the descriptions presage the tragedies of our own time (and all the times before). The opening passage, for example, elegantly describes Detroit:

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
She that was great among the nations.

There probably is a time for lamentation, for some bit of anguish from within or without. This Friday, let's go there. A friend, a parent, a pet who is gone, the loss of a love or some hope. Perhaps it is just a bit of the good blues; that's fine.

Here is mine (which is also about Detroit):

These dry bits of ash
Lofted by autumn winds to
The grey of Her sky.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday, pt. 2: Obama clarifies the health plan proposal

For a while now, I have been hoping that President Obama would clarify what it is he is looking for in a health care plan. Fortunately, today's paper made it clear that he has finally done so:

President Barack Obama held a nationally televised address Tuesday to "clarify any misunderstandings" about his health care proposal, assuring Americans that under the new bill senior citizens—and not the federal government—will have the right to choose how they are executed....

The bill also calls for the creation of government-run carbon monoxide poisoning clinics, termination chambers in all YMCA basements, and a new giant pit in the Nevada desert where seniors can be dumped and buried en masse.

Meanwhile, the Republican reaction has been pretty much the same as it has been to every other suggested alteration to our current system:

Seniors!" House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) said. "Run for your lives! Obama is coming to kill you! He will kill all of you!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Corruption in Dallas

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors won several convictions in a major Dallas public corruption case (details here).

It seems that this was a straight-up bribery scandal. Former Dallas council member Don Hill and some of his cronies took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors doing work in the city.

[My favorite part of the story was this: "Car dealer and amateur home builder Rickey Robertson was acquitted in this scheme." How can you be an "amateur home builder?" Do you build houses and give them away? I've been thinking about that for a while now.]

Just an observation here: For whatever reason, it seems like Democrats more often get tied up in scandals involving money, while Republicans are more prone to sex scandals. This isn't a uniform rule, of course (ie, Bill Clinton is one prominent exception), but why might this be?


Woe is Detroit

Being from Detroit is like loving someone who breaks your heart the same way over and over again (which is perhaps the worst possible way to be heartbroken). But yesterday, in a forum much less important than the economic disasters driving the other ongoing heartbreaks, the Detroit Tigers found a new way to make Detroiters cry.

The professional baseball season now includes something like 495 games, and extends from February through Christmas, but somehow the Tigers and the Twins ended up tied. So, they played a one-game playoff for the division title. That game was tied, too, at the end of nine innings.

Then the Twins finally won in the 12th inning, a fact that will make the upcoming seven months of winter much better for the residents of Minnesota.

As for Detroit... well, we still have the Lions to place our hopes on!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


What I will be watching closely...

Next month, the Supreme Court will take up the cases of Graham and Sullivan, which involve the constitutionality of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As some of you may recall, I testified in Congress on this issue earlier this year.

Honestly, I would much rather that this issue be dealt with through the legislative than the judicial branch. I worry when what is "Constitutional" is defined to a matter of weeks, which is what is likely to happen here-- that is, the Court may decide that those under 16 cannot be subject to such a sentence, while those above that age may be sentenced to life without parole. I have less of a problem with a legislature creating such bright lines, given that they do so necessarily (for example, in defining the age of majority). I think that there is much more intellectual honesty in either not taking on the question or striking down the sentence for all juveniles, but I fear that the outcome will be somewhere in between.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Apology Monday

Somehow, it seems to be in the spirit of Monday to issue apologies. I will offer some here, and invite you to add your own apologies in the comment section:

1) To the several people who thought that my Saturday post about cat ladies was "about them," I apologize. There is a big difference between having two or three cats and actually being a crazy cat lady.

2) To Scott ("Spot") Davis and Craig: I apologize for not having previously offered to let you author a Sunday Reflection, and I do so now, an offer left open to a time when you have the time and inclination.

3) To the lady in the 2003 Honda Civic who waved at me because I was singing in my car: I apologize for looking ashamed instead of waving back, and for then cutting you off at Franklin Ave.

4) To America's lap dogs: I apologize for any untoward comments I may have made before I became aware of your many talents.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Sunday Reflection: Jericho v. Belief

This morning we studied Joshua 6, which contains the famous description of the Israelites defeat of the ancient city of Jericho. God tells them to march around the city for six days, and on the seventh day to blow trumpets and shout, and then the walls will come down so the Israelites can destroy the city. They do so, and after entering the city they kill all the men, women, and children (except those with Rahab), then burn the city.

What kind of a God is this? The God that directs this carnage in the interests of land conquest seems very different than the God described by Christ in the gospels.

This passage has driven some away from Christianity, and others to divorce the Old Testament from the New, seeing the OT as simply a mythical tale which in part provides the context for Christ's teaching.

What do you make of this?

Saturday, October 03, 2009


American Archetype: The Cat Lady

This morning's Waco Tribune Herald ran an article describing the troubles facing Kathryn Pace of nearby McGregor. It appears that Ms. Pace is being sued by the city and may lose her house because she simply has too many cats. How many? Even she says she doesn't know, and that's always a bad sign. The city has sued for condemnation of her house, which they say is "dilapidated, substandard,... and a hazard to the public health, safety, and welfare." Apparently, part of the problem is the "noxious smell coming from her home," which has been the basis of complaints from many neighbors. To her credit, her problems stem from a good heart which leads her to adopt strays.

I'm not quite sure what the deal is with older women and cats, but the Cat Lady seems to have become a fixture of many American neighborhoods. In fact, enough of a fixture that there is a "Crazy Cat Lady" action figure (pictured here), in which she is depicted as a middle-aged blond in a housecoat.

So those of you who have dealt with a cat lady (or perhaps are one), what do you think should be done, if anything?

Friday, October 02, 2009


Haiku Friday: Snax!

Today's topic is snacks. I'm tired of heavy, serious haikus, and it is also football season. Sure, if you want to write about Letterman or the economy or whatever, go right ahead, but I shall write of snacks:

What are these "Chee-toes?"
Are they cheese or are they toes?
The scary truth: both!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Roman Polanski

In 1974, Roman Polanski made Chinatown, which is widely considered to be one of the best films ever made. There is little doubt that he is a talented filmmaker.

A refuge from Communist Poland (first to France and then to the U.S.), Polanski suffered a fair amount of tragedy in his life. In 1969 his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family.

Polanski was convicted, by his own guilty plea, of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He was released pending sentencing, and fled the country. For the past 31 years, he has avoided the charges in France.

On September 26, Polanski traveled to Switzerland and was arrested at the Zurich airport on the U.S. warrant. The next question is whether or not he will actually be extradited. Many in France and Switzerland are opposed to his being sent to the U.S. to serve his sentence.

Perhaps it is the prosecutor in me, but I am baffled that this is a matter of debate, and that France gave him sanctuary. Am I missing something? And, at a deeper level, are we just more judgmental in the U.S. than the residents of Europe?

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