Thursday, September 30, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: So... What would you cut?

Recently, the Cato Institute (which is one of my favorite think tanks) placed newspaper ads with an intriguing premise-- they backed up their claims for wanting a smaller federal government with a very specific list of what programs they would cut.

My challenge to my readers is to do the same-- what would you cut out of the federal government? If you believe that the federal government is too big, I think there is a moral imperative to say what would go, but I suspect that nearly everyone can identify something that could go.

For my part, I would cut the size of the military significantly, and end the money-sucking and politicized system for military procurement we currently maintain. Our military does an excellent job with the tasks we give them, but we simply cannot afford to maintain the kind of foreign presence that treats two simultaneous wars as normal. The benefits just don't come close to the overwhelming costs.

I would also reduce and focus the role of federal law enforcement, and I would scale way back on the role of the federal government in education. I would also end price supports and subsidies for agriculture, and end tax breaks to energy companies.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Programming note

A few days ago, I noted that the Razor would hit 500,000 hits next month, but now... it looks like that will happen tomorrow morning. Happy half-million!


Tiny Rant

OxyContin is just synthetic opium. Really.
Adderall is just amphetamine. That's the active ingredient.

First, we're surprised that they get abused?

Second... how lazy are these drug companies? The best they can do is opium and amphetamines, and they sell them with patent protections?


Razorite Interviews: IPLawGuy

For the next few weeks, I plan on posting interviews I have conducted with various Razorites. Up first is ace correspondent IPLawGuy. For those of you who don't know him, he kind of is a superhero of intellectual property (but does not actually live in a pod in space).

[Video removed- but you can see it here]


I may die from physical therapy

While recovering from my broken ankle (perhaps America's most pathetic sports injury), I am undergoing some physical therapy. My assumption was that some nice lady would tell me about some exercises and then help me practice them a few times.

Wrong. The purpose of physical therapy, thus far, seems to be to completely remove my foot from the rest of my leg. We've come pretty close to accomplishing the mission, too. Today's exercises included her jerking my foot back and forth rapidly while grunting like a tennis player at Wimbledon. Other favorites have included pressing my leg with her thumb in the most painful places, and (inexplicably) tugging sharply on my big toe.

It does seem to be working, though. I love not having crutches anymore, and there has been additional healing. If she does succeed in removing the foot, I will at least have the rest of my leg in good shape...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The Razor's First Animated Movie

In which two young Pandas discuss the Argbf administration before being interrupted by Pickles the cat.

[video removed]


Football Update!

I'm starting to suspect that they don't take football quite as seriously here in Minnesota as they do in Texas. There, it is a live-or-die cornerstone of one's identity. Here, well... it mostly seems to be an opportunity for goofiness. For example, the University of Minnesota is represented by Goofy the Gopher, seen here at right. Intimidating? No. And neither is the football team, which thus far this year has lost games to both Div. I-AA University of South Dakota and MAC league wanna-be Northern Illinois University.

Like most of the schools around here (and there are a million), St. Thomas plays in division three of the NCAA. In their league, there seems to be a naming convention that I am starting to love. St. Thomas is the Tommies. St. John's is the Johnnies. St. Olaf, of course, is the Oles. Carleton is the Knights. I guess they didn't get the memo.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, staking your self-esteem to your school's football prowess has turned into a soul-crushing enterprise (unless you cheer for TCU). The mighty University of Texas was crushed by one of the University of California's branch campuses, in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Texas A & M lost to the booze-drenched New Orleans School of College University [sic], and SMU continues to play in a stadium inexplicably named for Gerald Ford.

I love football season. I'm still figuring out how it works here, but I will keep you updated as things progress.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Minnesota Monday: Walking

One thing I am still getting used to in Minnesota is that it really is a walking city. Where I live, I can walk to the grocery store, a coffee shop, some restaurants, a bank... and I do walk there (now that my ankle is healing). So do lots of other people.

It does take some getting used to, though. I'm so accustomed to just getting in the car as a matter of course that sometimes I do so, remember where I am, then get out again and head out on foot.

Sure, Osler (you say)-- that's fine in the fall, but what about the winter? Good point, and I am interested to see how this changes. At work, though, I expect it won't change much. Downtown Minneapolis is connected by an enormous skyway, which is a meandering path of bridges through 88 blocks of stores, restaurants, hotels, and just about everything else (including St. Thomas law school).

In Waco, I lived in a beautiful part of town where people did walk. It wasn't unusual to see my neighbors passing my house, then go out and chat for a while. I loved that. Sadly, other than the Family Dollar and La Fiesta, there weren't many place to walk to, however. When I see people walking here, I expect to recognize them, expect them to be the people I have come to know, but they aren't. They have different stories, different lives, and someplace to go. I'm not sure that is better; there is something to be said for walkers who are on foot only for the exercise and to exchange a kind word with the people along the way.

Still, there is a rhythm to life here that is appealing. Perhaps in part it is the sense that the snows will come and quiet it all, leaving me on a bright cold morning to walk through that faint scent of woodsmoke, pine, and ice.

We will see.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Should I be worried...

about this, which I just found out there on the internets?


The Spiritual Life of Prosecutors

On Friday, USA Today had a lengthy front-page article criticizing federal prosecutors. I will admit being alarmed at the headline, but the article itself was oddly full of broad condemnation and worry, and pretty short on details of what was wrong. Certainly, withholding Brady material is improper and wrong, but there are often issues there that go far beyond the prosecutor-- like the many instances where an agent never gave a prosecutor the exculpatory evidence in the first place.

Certainly, the problems highlighted by USA Today come from the enormous amount of discretion that federal prosecutors enjoy, combined with the facts that many of their crucial decisions are made out of the public eye and that their decisions profoundly affect peoples' lives. It is this same combination of factors which often make the spiritual lives of prosecutors unusually complex, if they choose to bring their religious values to work with them.

When I was a federal prosecutor, I was deeply challenged by some of the Bible's teachings. John 8, for one, in which the adultress is saved from a legal execution by Jesus's mercy. For another, the story of Caiaphus, who was in the prosecutor role at Christ's trial, and who let emotion take take him where he should not have gone. Christianity can be a hard religion for the rich or powerful. While prosecutors are not rich, they have extraordinary power over the lives of the accused (and, in a different way, victims of crime). Like riches, that power can draw prosecutors away from faith, because it can be so hard to reconcile either with the bedrock values of humility and mercy that comes with most faiths (including Christianity).

We need prosecutors; I don't want to live in a society that lacks them. While we count on them, though, we should be attentive to the position we place them in, and expect that their work will take a toll on other parts of their lives if they are properly engaged with the deeply troubling stories that underlie their work. It is nothing less than the constant management of tragedy, and the weight of that shapes the rest of those servants' souls.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Straight Edge

Several years ago, in Key West, Stephen Baker told me about his punk rock past. It sounded fascinating. He was part of the second generation of the Straight Edge movement, which eschewed the use of drugs and alcohol, yet remained as defiant as the rest of the punk movement. It wasn't church youth group, or anything like it, given that punk music was at its core and many of its adherents were rejecting or suspicious of authority.

Two things have been rolling around in my mind about this.

It seems that if you really want to reject the corrupt values of this culture, rejecting the role of drugs and alcohol is a good place to start.

Second, I'm beginning to lose my enthusiasm for musicians, politicians, and others who criticize American culture, but do not reject any of society's actual values at a personal level. I'm looking at you, fat-cat working class heroes, private-jetting environmentalists, and small-goverment screamers who live off the drippings of government.


Viva La Razor!

Sometime next month, the Razor will get its 500,000th hit. For reasons I don't understand, the blog is getting more traffic since I moved to Minnesota, not less, and the comments seem as good as ever.

If you look back at the first month of the Razor, four years ago this month, you will see that it hasn't changed that much. Over the past few years, I have made a point of posting every day, and right now average about 1.5 posts a day.

Thanks to all those who read and comment-- it matters to me. I know that part of what I put out there is drivel, but with the rest of it I aspire to something more than just writing practice.

Hmmm... looking back at that first month makes me think that maybe I should do more faculty profiles...

Friday, September 24, 2010


Haiku Friday: Football

Football lends itself well to haiku-- it is dramatic, seasonal, and easily summed up.

Baylor versus Rice,
A good study in contrasts
In so many ways!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Don't Ask, Don't Tell Lives On

On Tuesday, a bill to allow the President to rescind the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule relating to gay men and lesbians in the military died in the Senate under a Republican filibuster.

There are some technical aspects at play here-- the bill would not have, in itself, undone the policy. Nonetheless, emotions were high on the issue.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was one of the more unfortunate things the Clinton administration came up with. It was politically expedient but wholly unprincipled. Not letting gays into the military at all might be principled (if, in fact, the presence of gay soldiers undermines morale-- something I don't know), as would be the position that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Don't Ask, Don't Tell satisfied neither set of principles, and instead promoted dishonest and witch hunts.

Whether or not you are for or against gay men and lesbians in the military, you should be against Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which simultaneously allows them into the ranks and then discriminates against them, fulfilling no one's goals.

In fairness, I should recognize the fact that Bill Clinton now asserts that he was sold a false bill of goods about what DADT would mean by Colin Powell, and was backed into a corner by a Congress intent on excluding gay men and lesbians from the military altogether.

So, which should it be, readers? My instinct is that there is no reason gay men and lesbians shouldn't be in the military, and be public about that status. But, and this is important... I have never served in the military.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010



Philley points out that Cheese Panda and the Boston Bruin have some things in common...


Racial divides

TJ Turner tipped me off the the intriguing maps being produced which show racial segregation in American cities. The map above, for example, shows Chicago's breakdown. Bill Rankin, the creator of this map, comments here.

You can see the segregation of many other cities here.

Here is my own hometown, the highly segregated Detroit area. The blue area nearly perfectly tracks the city limits of the city of Detroit itself; Grosse Pointe is the red notch in the northeast by the lake. The red pocket in the middle of Detroit is the Polish enclave of Hamtramck.


What if? Wednesday... The Interstate

What if there were no interstate highways, and we had to find other ways to get around? Would our society be better or worse off?

Much of the American landscape is literally shaped by our highways. Here are some of the things that interstates have made possible or encouraged:

Lower cost food (especially fruit and vegetables) and other perishable products
Big box stores
Fast food and processed foods
Family vacations for most income levels

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Not the Wiccans!

Since my own little piece popped up on the Huffington Post, I was trolling around there a bit. It's one of the few places where I find myself to the right of everyone else, which is odd, but you have to love pieces like this one about Christine O'Donnell facing backlash from the "Wiccan Community."

Though, come to think of it, the Wiccan community could be a little scary to have as enemies...

Monday, September 20, 2010


Something new and spicy at HuffPo...

Check it out here. (I just noticed that my piece is appearing next to Sinead O'Connor's "open letter to the Pope." Oh, great...).

Please post a comment after the piece!


Minnesota Monday: Running in leaves

Minneapolis is a little bit sports-crazy. It is a small market with all four major pro leagues represented, and all four have fervent fans (though not as "fervent" as the Baylor fans who seem ready to slit their own throats because Baylor got creamed by a great TCU team on Saturday-- I'm not sure what they were expecting).

It's not spectator sports I have noticed, though, since I haven't been to any. Rather, this seems to be the most fit community I have ever seen. I live not far from a beautiful natural lake, Lake Harriet. It is circled by parks and trees and paths, and is constantly surrounded by people walking, running, biking, or (in the winter) skiing. I often will find myself in line for coffee or something behind someone fresh off the trail, and they all seem so... well, happy.

The thing that is hard about that is that I cannot do any of those things. I long to be on a bike, or running, or even out on a long walk, but I broke my ankle as soon as I got here, so all I can do is look forward to that day when I can join their ranks.

The trees are beginning to turn here. When I was seventeen, on Saturday of the fourth week of September, I was wearing a gold jersey and green shorts. Running is a quiet sport, and I mostly heard the sound of my own breath as I created some distance between me and a guy from Clintondale as we followed the white chalk line and turned through a tunnel of trees. We would get frost that week, which is early, and the trees seemed to know this. Soon, along with my own breathing, there was this singsong sound of the leaves under my feet, not so much of a crunch as a sigh. It was a rhythm, almost like breathing, matching my own, music. I still remember that.

When I am in line at the coffee shop in my cast, I see the people in running clothes and long for it again. We are who we are, wherever we find ourselves, and those longings live very deep inside of us, calling out our truest name.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Technology and the Church

One thing that is surprising and good about Minneapolis is that we have not one but three public radio stations-- one specializing in classical music, one playing alternative and new music, and a third with the usual news-and-talk format. On the third of these, they happened to be interviewing William Gibson on Friday, and he said something I have been thinking about for a few days: "We become our technology."

There is some truth in what he says, because so much technology has to do with communications, and it is through communications that we define ourselves to the world. The form of communication, the technology, plays a role in shaping the message itself, as well as the audience. If you write letters, the message will be slow, well considered, and limited to the person you are writing to. If you write on a blog, you may change what you say to make it less personal and more concise, while if you tweet you will carry those attributes up a little.

So what of this and faith? If we become our technology, how does the faith aspect of our identity survive that transition?

My own view is that as technology broadens our audiences while shortening and depersonalizing what we say, faith becomes less a part of what we convey, less a part of the portrait of ourselves we paint for the world... unless we try very hard not to let that happen.

Upon reflection, I find that exactly this happened to me. When I began blogging, there was almost no mention of my faith. In part, I will admit, it did seem too personal a thing to share with whoever might be reading.

Obviously, I changed my mind and began devoting Sundays to faith issues. To have faith survive as part of how I described myself to the world in this new medium, I had to be more intentional about that project. In the end, I think that is the answer: Like so many other things, technological change requires us to be affirmative in making faith a part of what we do.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Meanwhile, in Sentencing/McDonaldland news....

We have breaking news regarding the Hamburglar.


I'm wondering...

How Jesse Davis's 4 hours of driving Stephen Carter too and from the airport went...

In other news, I'm cleaning out and updating the blogroll. Is there a blog I should be listing? Let me know...

Friday, September 17, 2010


Haiku Friday: Fall

It is the very start of fall here-- the leaves are just starting to change, and it is thrilling to see. I sit here wearing a sweater, because it is that kind of evening.

Perhaps fall has not quite fallen where you are, but let's haiku about it anyways. It can be anything related to fall, and this week we are going to do something special with the form. Just make it two short lines (rather than three), and don't worry about the syllables. The chill in the air invites brevity.

Here is mine:

A flash of red beneath my shoe,
Death to Life, death to life.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Constitution Day in the 612

Earlier today, I got the chance to speak on a great panel for Constitution Day. In addition to the panelists described in the link, we were joined by Michael Paulsen, a top Constitutional scholar, and Joel Nichols, who has just finished a book on law and religion which is being published by the Cambridge University Press.

I was the new kid, but it felt great to be back in the saddle and talking about these issues I find so intriguing. St. Thomas has a wonderfully vibrant academic culture, and the fact that the room was packed with students for a mid-day presentation tells me that they appreciate it, as well.

Meanwhile, back in the 254, Joltin' Jesse Davis has been tasked with driving Prof. Stephen Carter from the airport and back tomorrow, which will allow him four hours with one of the best minds in the country.


Political Mayhem Thursday: Is Tea Party Victory in Delaware a Good Thing for America?

On Tuesday, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party won a huge victory in Delaware, where political novice Christine O'Donnell won the primary over Congressman Mike Castle, who was favored by the party establishment.

O'Donnell has some baggage (unpaid taxes, brought a $6.9 million lawsuit against an employer, some fuzziness on her education, no apparent career), but was able to beat a pretty good politician who had the support of the party apparatus.

While her election is probably bad for the GOP's chances of taking over the Senate, what I want to know is... do you think it is good for the country as a whole?

While I would not vote for her, I think her winning the primary does have a positive side for American politics. By running as a Republican purist, she and her fellow travelers will hopefully be forced to define exactly what "Republican purity" might be. As regular readers of the Razor know, I have long believed that neither party's politicians (or Reagan himself) actually WANT smaller government. If they did, they would restrain the growth of federal power when they are in office. Republicans have not done that when they controlled the federal government, and neither did the Democrats. So what IS the difference between the two? What would Republicans actually do about the health care crisis, for example? What is the "pure" Republican position on immigration?

I know the answer to my rhetorical questions-- there isn't a pure Republican position. Still, the election of fringe candidates in primaries would force both parties to define themselves more sharply, and that might be a good thing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Big Friday in Waco

This Friday, Baylor will inaugurate Ken Starr as President of the University. There are two great developments that come with this, both confirming my initial thought that Starr was an excellent choice for this position.

First, the keynote speaker for the inauguration ceremony will be Stephen Carter of Yale Law. Prof. Carter was one of my favorite teachers when I was in school, and a wonderful choice to lead the way in a time of healing. More than anything, Carter is an iconoclast and a critical thinker who taught us to be those things, too. In class, if someone tried to guess his position and articulate it (a classic move by pandering students), he would break them down more than anyone else. President Starr is sending a message by choosing such a learned and fascinating critical thinker (who does not fit neatly into any political box) for this important role.

Second, President Starr has announced an initiative to raise $100 million for student scholarships, and has started by pledging $100,000 of his own money to the cause. This is both a perfect cause (there is nothing divisive about scholarships!) and a perfect gesture in leading by example.


Reggie Bush Returns His Heisman

Yesterday, Reggie Bush returned the Heisman he won in 2005 as the best player in college football. He had received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of benefits from sports agents, a mistake that has led to his school, USC, being sanctioned by the NCAA.

Don't worry about Reggie. He has a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Saints and a good career.

Should he have returned the trophy? After all, his taking money for agents did not affect his play. He was still the best player that year, by most accounts. USC has already taken the hit for the violations they allowed.

What if he had taken steroids? Then should the Heisman have been returned or revoked?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The Eavesdropper

I'm walking along here in Minneapolis behind two women. One of them says, "You know that movie The Last Exorcism? That is SO about my cousins in Texas."



An Encouraging Day at St. Thomas

Yesterday, my colleague Greg Sisk released a fascinating report on scholarly productivity, which was immediately picked up by law school uber-blogger Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago.

In short, Greg's study extends some of Leiter's work at ranking schools based on the number of times their tenured faculty are cited in law reviews. It's a rough measure of how well-known and respected a faculty might be among national colleagues.

Because much of a school's ranking in U.S. News is determined by how that school is viewed by other academics, this is an intriguing exercise. I would suggest you take a look; the full report can be downloaded here.

As I have said before, it is a good and timely question to ask whether or not the U.S. News Ranking should have a significant effect on the legal academy. However, what can't be debated is that those rankings do have a very real impact on law schools and how they do business. For example, many schools now use nearly all of their scholarship money to attract students with higher LSAT scores, which in turn drives up the ranking numbers. That means that scholarship money no longer goes primarily to those with financial need or those who have proven themselves in the first year or two of law school.

Sadly, the Razor Rankings never quite caught on.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Things I don't understand, Part 243

Sent to me from the Girl Who Ate Houston.


Minnesota Monday: The State Fair

Back in July, CTL suggested that I devote Mondays to describing things in Minnesota, and this past week several others supported that idea. I like it, and I'm doing it.

Last week, I went to the Minnesota State Fair. I was initially wary of it, based on my own memories of the scary and unstable Michigan State Fair in Detroit, which was canceled this year after a 160-year run and would have made a nice setting for a version of Grand Theft Auto.

I shouldn't have worried. The Minnesota State Fair is a very friendly and fascinating event with no reported fatalities. Everyone seems to love it, and here is the fascinating part: Though it is pretty goofy and cheesy, even the most jaded hipsters seem to enjoy it straight-up rather than ironically. Weird.

Here is what the state fair is about, from what I can tell:

1) The Miracle of Birth Barn. This is an exhibit where they gather every pregnant animal in the state and let the fairgoers watch, well, the miracle of birth. The crowd seemed to be mostly people who thought this was amazing to see and people trying not to throw up.

2) The Fried Food on a stick. From what I can tell, Minnesotans are pretty healthy eaters, but not this week. At the fair, they want their meal deep-fried and impaled on a stick. In addition to walleye on a stick, there is hotdish on a stick and a potato on a stick, among a zillion other options.

3) The Grandstand Shows. This year's selections included Rush, KISS, and Weird Al. I saw Weird Al. Here's the thing-- I ran into some of my students at the concert. They were there without irony. Huh. This place may take some getting used to.

4) The Rides. It's an odd selection, and run by strangely un-creepy looking blond carnies. For example, there was a line to get on "Ye Olde Mill," which involved getting in a boat and then floating past scenes depicted on wood boards held up with sticks. This ride has apparently been running at the fair for 97 years. I'm not sure why.

I'm kind of wondering how Ye Olde Mill and walleye on a stick would fly at the H.O.T. Fair in Waco.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Does the church need me?

Last Sunday, in the comments section, I answered my own post's question about whether or not we need the church, in part with this:

I know that I am not strong enough or good enough to walk the path of Christianity, or even close to it, on my own. I need to be constantly challenged and encouraged (two different but essential things) in my faith, or it fades.... The Church does not need me, particularly, but I do need it. I need it not because of any one strength or ultimate truth (every church is flawed), but because of my own failings and weaknesses.

In response to that, I got a challenging and true email from an esteemed Razorite, who suggested this (in part):

As many teenagers do, I went through quite the rebellious period in high school. At one point, I decided I was going to stop going to church, which I had done with my family every Sunday my entire life. My parents were none-too-thrilled by this pronouncement and an argument ensued. I tried to say that I could believe and worship as I wished and that the church didn't need me.

My dad pointed me to 1 corinthians and asked me to read a few sections. He then asked if I believed in what I had just read. I responded affirmatively. He explained what I had just read-- in Paul's letters to the Corinthians, he frequently referred to the Church as "a body." In 1 Corinthians 12:15-22, Paul addresses this very issue-- does the Church need me?-- saying, "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary."

I think this works two ways. One, there is no part of the body (the Church) that can say to what it perceives as the least among them that a member is not needed or welcome. all are both; and two, that the church does need you... and my dad... and even me, to be whole.

In strict application to my own life, that message is bolstering, encouraging and affirming-- even when I am feeling like a wayward Christian or even just feeling lazy in my faith and don't want to go to church, I know that the church needs me to be whole.

To which I just say "Amen."

Saturday, September 11, 2010


What I should have done for the last lecture...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Haiku Friday: What up with the panda?

No further comment necessary. Haiku in the usual format of 5 syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five for the third.

Here is mine:

Panda has issues
That are related to cheese.
Sure, but who doesn't?

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Burning issues with Pickles the Cat

As I should have expected, I received an email yesterday, purportedly from Pickles the Cat, whom I have not seen since the "volleyball incident." It appears that Pickles has some opinions, which are included below.

As a cat, I have had to endure many unpleasant associations with those who are not “like me” and do not believe what I believe. For example, as anyone knows, having to share your home with humans and dogs is not necessarily enjoyable or for the faint of heart. Yet, these creatures can be tolerated, especially when one of them is refilling the food dish. Also, although the entire house is officially mine – I let them do their thing here in order to get fed and have air conditioning in the summer and heat and a fire in the fireplace in the winter – sometimes I have to give up some of my rights for the good of the whole, such as when the humans have guests over and I can’t sit in the middle of the dining room table.

That said, I like keeping up with the news. There is one theme that has continued to make this a very long, hot summer. There is one that has made me wake up hissing and clawing. Many people are so hell-bent on their own rights that they have lost the understanding of tolerance, including:

• The International Burn a Quran (Koran) Day: Apparently Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center (doves… yum!) in Gainesville, Fla. thought it was a really good idea to have people send in copies of the Quran so he and his staff could burn them and by doing so lessen the evil in the world. Take note that he has not ever read the Quran, so I am a little concerned about his basis for the evil it contains. As Aaryn Belfer, one of my favorite writers, wrote, “I personally prefer to read a book before I burn it.” In my opinion, Pastor Jones would do better to grill some doves. If so, I would actually go.

• And Pastor Jones is not the only church leader to focus on the evils of Islam. In Dallas, Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church, refers to Islam as the “evil religion” and created a sermon specifically to let his congregation know why. (He also preached the sermon “Why Gay is Not OK” last year …) I was born in South Dallas, so I don’t like it when my hometown is mocked because a preacher who can raise $115 million to re-do his church buildings makes such widespread judgments.

• And to keep with the Muslim theme this Thursday, has anyone heard there is a group that is trying to build an Islamic community center mosque in the proximity of where the World Trade Center stood in New York? I think I missed that one in the paper. (Meow – gotcha there!)

Across America people are enraged at these ideas and events. Likewise, there are most likely just as many who support them. Maybe there should be both. Maybe it is a bad idea to burn what is the religious text for 1.5 billion people worldwide or call their religion evil. Maybe it is in poor taste to build an Islamic community center near a site where 3000 Americans died because of extreme Islamic ideals. The deal is that the very thing that gives us the right to do any of these things – regardless of their ability to offend – is the First Amendment. Anyone has the right to say, believe, preach, and (usually) burn or build what they want. I know there are exceptions but I am a cat not a lawyer or scholar, so cut me a break on that one. But, just because it is your right, is it the right thing to do?

(And that whole thing about Professor Osler freaking out because I “accidentally” made him break his ankle… Seriously? He was more mad about that than the time I “borrowed” all of his things and took them to Mexico. I will cover those issues in my next post as well as respond to the derogatory term that has been used about me. )

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


The results are in

My readers have spoken. The four things people would like to see here the most:

1) Monday posts devoted to life in Minnesota
2) Guest posts by Pickles the Cat
3) Candid naked photos
4) Shocking true stories from/about my readers

Therewith, I now request any shocking true stories you may have. Hold off on the candid naked photos for now, though. Thanks.


What would you like to see on the Razor?

As your content provider here at the Razor, I'm thinking hard about constant quality improvement. Which of the following would you like to see more of?

1) Repressed memories
2) Haiku
3) Drivel
4) Political Mayhem
5) Recipes
6) Cat photos and news
7) Information about the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area
8) Panda information and photos
9) Descriptions of my actual academic work
10) Photos of IPLawGuy with celebrities
K) Shocking true stories from my readers
12) Fashion tips and eulogies
13) Links to dead blogs
14) Stories related to Snuggles, the Fabric Softener Bear

Also, I am open to any ideas you may have for new content prior to imposing my paywall on September 30.

(Just kidding about the paywall)


Where I can walk...

One thing that has been very interesting with my move has been that my new home is much more amenable to walking. In Waco, I could walk to some places I needed to go (Dollar General) some places I didn't want to go (Freddie's Auto Glass, Southern Culture Tattoo), and one place I loved to go (La Fiesta). They were all on strip-malled and treeless Franklin Ave, though, and it wasn't such a nice walk.

Here in Edina, I am in walking distance to 50th and France, which is a very interesting shopping district. There are a bunch of intriguing stores ("Sprongs?"), but best of all are the restaurants I have discovered there, with more to come. There is a great French bistro, Salut. There is a wonderful diner with a great brunch, the Edina Grill, and a cozy little wine bar. There is also an excellent sushi place (pictured above), and a place for sandwiches. For less than a full meal, there is a Caribou Coffee with a nice fireplace and a very local ice cream place (which apparently was named "best ice cream in America" by Gourmet Magazine.

To walk to these places, I go through Arden Park, which is a gorgeous little park through which Minnehaha Creek wends. The path takes me over a little wooden bridge in the woods.

Still, there is no La Fiesta, which I loved....

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


What's up wit' da Pandas

DiadelKendall spotted this-- It looks like Grar the Panda has landed on his feet... the guy always was a maverick:


Why I will be paying to get the Waco Tribune-Herald online

Starting next week, much of the online content of the Waco Tribune-Herald will be available only if you subscribe to the paper or pay $9.95 for online access (more info here).

At one level, this is a mini-disaster for the Razor. I have always linked to newspaper articles, especially those from the Trib. I'm losing a significant part of the content I count on to share with you, and some good links to my own history.

Still, I will be paying for on-line access, and will do so enthusiastically. I want access to the Trib, I understand and support their reasons for making the change, and I very much want this community institution to survive and thrive in a new era of media.

The truth is that advertising on the internet brings in very little revenue. Those sites that can make it on the revenue stream available on the internet use free content-- for example, the Drudge Report links to other articles, and the Huffington Post does not pay its writers. The Trib does not have the ability to follow those models-- it pays writers to stay in Waco and cover local issues and sports. Providing all the content of the Trib online for free is pretty much the same as giving it away while still paying the writers. As consumers, we all like stuff for free, but we also understand (if we know anything about business) that without a revenue stream, there is no reason for a business to keep providing a good or service.

I was exchanging messages with a Trib writer recently on this topic. He made the excellent analogy to the pro bono work that I do as an attorney. As a lawyer, I do quite a bit of pro bono work, but I can't do so much that I lose my revenue stream, whatever that is. No one would expect me to, either. As a business, I can't expect a different model from the Trib, as subscribers inexorably move from the print version to the online version which does not produce much advertising revenue. The Trib is not a charity, and we have no right to the work of good writers for free.

Here are my primary reasons for paying to get the Trib online, both selfish and altruistic (and a business only succeeds if it appeals to our selfish motives):

1) I selfishly want to get news about Baylor and Waco, and there is simply no other source that provides such complete coverage of what is going on with things including Baylor sports.

2) I think the Trib is an excellent paper for the size of the community it serves. Local control has been great in that the Robinsons have spent money on the thing and invested in what the Trib does best-- put beat writers on local stories. Having lived other places, I find the work of Trib writers to be remarkable given the size of the market. It is also well-edited. Over the past year I have written for national (the Huffington Post), regional (the Dallas Morning News) and local outlets (the Trib), and I find the people at the Trib to be highly professional even in comparison to those larger entities.

3) I want the Trib to survive, for the good of Waco. It is an important part of a community I care about. Blogs, TV stations, message boards-- none of them are as crucial to the identity of a place as the newspaper, and we give up those things that define us at our own peril.

So, here goes my $9.95... and I urge you to do the same.

Monday, September 06, 2010


Another Drug Kingpin Caught!

Police Seize More Than $50 In Wire From Nation's Wealthiest Crystal Meth Dealer


The object of desire

According to Yahoo, today is the best day all year to buy a car. I'm still very happy with my car (a Mazdaspeed3), but that doesn't stop me from dreaming about the next one.

Right now, the object of my desire is the Subaru Outback. It would be a silly car to get in Texas, but here in Minnesota it would make a lot of sense. It's a great road car, has four-wheel drive, and I like the style of it. I've never had a Subaru, but always admired them. They seem to age gracefully, for one thing. It's a good performer, but not pretentious. I see a lot of them on the road up here, and their drivers seem content and happy. (That's something I look for, actually, in a car-- happy drivers. You rarely see a happy guy in a 1987 Geo Metro).

So, what is the object of your (automotive) desire? If you could have any car under $45,000, what would it be?

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Sunday Reflection: The point of worship

Today I will continue my adventure in Minneapolis churches at St. Stephens, which is just a few blocks from my house. Last week, they were doing baptisms in the river next to the church, which was a beautiful sight.

Why even go to a church, though? Does it either add or subtract to our beliefs and spirituality?

I will take your ideas on this before I chime in.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


On Crutches

It has been about a month now that I have been without the use of my left foot after breaking my ankle. Some observations:

1) Having limited mobility changes the way you see the landscape. Small inclines are suddenly significant, and stairs loom like mountains. I have become very good at locating elevators, and also at resenting the placement of those elevators.

2) I am deeply conflicted about accepting help from other people. It's not in my nature to let people do little things for me, but now I am grateful for it. It probably has made me a more humble and better person.

3) One thing that has changed will be the way I relate to people with handicaps of one type or another. I have too often felt awkward and have failed to just ask people what they would like me to do in a given situation. Here is one example... One of my best friends suffered a stroke several years ago. He did a heroic job of rehabilitation, and got most of his faculties back, but still walks very slowly. We often ate lunch together in Waco, and the same thing would happen every time: The hostess would zip off to show us our table at a breakneck pace, leaving my friend far behind. I never knew what to do. Should I stay with my friend, or leave him to go with the hostess? What I didn't do is significant, though-- I never just asked my friend what he would prefer that I do. I will not make that mistake again.

All things work to the good, and this relatively small injury has made me see more clearly the shape of the world and the people in it.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Haiku Friday: Dreams

I have been having some amazingly complex and wonderful dreams lately. I'm not sure why, but my subconscious seems to be in a great mood. I love the way dreams stretch reality and create new ones.

Let's haiku about our dreams this week. Use the 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable format to describe a recurring or memorable dream you have had.

Here is mine:

We're in a contest?
Then I must represent well;
Hand me a blindfold!

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday with IPLawGuy: Is Barack Obama becoming George H.W. Bush?

This week's message comes from IPLawGuy (shown here making an important call from Waco's Health Camp), who has been my friend for 29 years. He currently is a partner in a DC law firm so powerful and secretive that the entrance to its offices are marked only by the presence of a single Imperial Storm Trooper.

Historians, journalists, political junkies and casual observers often attempt to draw parallels and comparisons between historical figures and modern day political players. For instance, commentators noted that Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt shared many traits, including the ability to communicate and connect with voters; not necessarily with a strong commitment to facts. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' quip about FDR ("Second class intellect, but first class temperament.") could be equally be applied to Reagan.

Bill Clinton was probably the most savvy political animal and strategist to inhabit the White House since Richard Nixon; both accomplished much as President, but neither one could manage to stay out of trouble. Significant portions of the American public distrusted each of them and held a visceral hatred for Nixon and for Clinton for reasons that were often more related to style rather than substance.

Seems to me that Barack Obama has become the spiritual heir of George Herbert Walker Bush.

The first President Bush now receives relatively favorable marks from historians. His 1991 budget deal, while destroying his credibility on his promise of "No New Taxes" was sensible and set the stage for the economic boom of the 1990's. He successfully managed a generally non-violent end to the Cold War and liberated Kuwait without getting the U.S. bogged down in a protracted struggle in Iraq . He also pushed for and signed the Americans with Disability Act, among other things.

But George Bush lost his re-election bid in 1992. He was seen as out of touch, lacking in vision and generally rudderless. "The Right" never believed he was really a "conservative" due to his background and statements made in the past and his agreement to raise taxes to fix the budget killed the relationship. The press labeled Bush as a "wimp," and no matter what he did, that image stuck.

In present time, Barack Obama has racked up a pretty impressive list of accomplishments. He's ended our combat mission in Iraq on schedule, he got a healthcare bill passed and a major stimulus package along with his financial reform bill through. He's revamped the Department of Education and many other departments. Yet his own base seems disappointed in his performance and his political enemies are charged up and ready to deliver a massive blow to the Democratic Party in November .

Obama appears to have lost the ability to inspire that made him such a great candidate in 2008. Reagan had that ability, as did FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton and many other successful politicians. Once LBJ lost the ability to inspire due to domestic unrest and the Vietnam War he was done.

George H.W. Bush never really had the ability to inspire, but he ran as the heir of Reagan in 1988 against an even less inspiring opponent, Michael Dukakis. Once elected, however, this inability to get a majority of Americans to believe in the man or his message sealed his fate.

Whether Barack Obama will suffer the same fate as George Bush the elder in two years remains to be seen, but it doesn't take much effort to find stories like Fred Kaplan's from the September 1, 2010 edition of Slate entitled "Lost in a Muddle" featuring quotes like this:

President Barack Obama's speech from the Oval Office Tuesday night was a strange muddle—a televised prime-time address that lacked a bottom line, a consistent theme, a clear road to the future. He announced the end of combat operations in Iraq , right on schedule. But he equivocated on what comes next in that much-improved but still war-torn land

The article goes on to give examples of several "on the one hand, on the other hand" moments from the speech. Kaplan wraps up the examples by saying:

None of this is wrong. All the pieces of what he said are worth saying. But what was he saying overall? Which pieces did he mean to emphasize most? What made the message worth the high profile of a prime-time address to the nation?

Seems to me that Obama spends too much time reasoning out ideas and trying to be thorough. Like Kaplan says, it’s a muddle. He's being a Law Professor instead of being a litigator. The better approach may be more like that of Reagan or FDR. Figure out the one line take-away (The only thing to fear is fear itself ….America's Back) and strip away the excess.

Obama should hope for a historical comparison to Reagan or Clinton during their first two years in office. Both faced major challenges and were hearing predictions that they would not be re-elected either.

Or is there another comparison we should make? Bush 41 may be a dangerous comparison, but once Obama starts getting compared to Jimmy Carter, he may really be in trouble!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


The First Day

Yesterday was a great day-- my first day of teaching at St. Thomas. Even though I was a little rusty, it felt wonderful to be in front of a class again teaching sentencing. I'm very excited about the group I will be teaching, too-- they have a variety of backgrounds and opinions on criminal law, and all seem engaged in what I get to talk about.

I started by telling them that they were my first students here. There is something important about that, I think-- being the first. I remember well very well my first class at Baylor, and ten years later I am still in touch with three people in that small group-- David Moore, Emanuela Prister, and Jim Dedman.

The picture above is from last year, obviously, since I can't stand to lecture in my current condition-- instead I used the one stool at St. Thomas, which now has unfortunately been dubbed the "Osler Stool." I don't think that hurt, though; I was still able to put some passion into it even though I couldn't move very much.

Some of you have been in my classes, and know that I try to make first and last days special, to frame the rest. I tried something different this time, and hope that it worked. I spent a long time talking about my own story, and then bringing out some of the compelling stories of those in the class-- why they came to law school, why they are interested in criminal law, whether they are more inclined to the defense or prosecution. As so often happens, what they had to say did a very good job of establishing some of my themes for the class.

I think this is going to work.

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