Monday, October 31, 2011


The Winner!

My intern
by: oslerguy

Last week's haiku Friday brought out some great entries-- of course, I just got around to them today, since on Friday I was giving my talk at Baylor (that's me in the video above, with The Intern, and my original plan).

Though there are many strong entries, I felt that this one, by S, was most compelling:

(bead of sweat) Choices!
Great, horrid choices!

I love it not just because it is true of road food, but almost everything else worthwhile.

Forthwith, her bio:

S was raised on a small farm in a rural part of South Dakota (that is, Sioux Falls). After successfully completing college, she attended Limbaugh University, which is America's Most Conservative and Accurate School of Anything, according to their brochure (capitalization in the original). After college, she took a number of jobs, including each of the following:

- Laundress to Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III
- Copy Editor for Cat Fancy magazine
- Shrubberer to the Clampett family of Beverly Hills
- Femme de Croissants to both Alec and James Baldwin
- Lt. Col., United States Army
- Actress (credits include Dawn of the Dead, Speedbump (1997 version), Explodar IV (starring Rink Allegro), and several Van Halen, Nickelback, and Yanni videos)
- Assistant embalmer
- Homicide detective, Las Vegas PD
- Reporter for BBC World Service (Dayton Bureau)

Tired of constant tumult in her work, she finally came to law school at St. Thomas, where she now writes a "Celebrity Corner" column for the school paper, the "Grobbler." Congratulations, S!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Communion

[Click on the image to enlarge Marta's photo of her hometown]

Last night, I went to a service where the congregation went to the front to receive communion, and then served it to one another. You would take the bread and wine, then turn to serve it to the person behind you. It was very moving, and the involvement of each of us as both receiver and servant was compelling.

I am starting to take the eucharist more seriously as the center of the liturgy. It means something different to me now... like a new mist over that moment.

Saturday, October 29, 2011



While in Waco this week, one of my favorite Razorites told me about his stumbling onto the existence of Eckankar, a religion that is apparently based on the teachings of a 40,000 year old warrior.

Intriguingly, the ECK website is big on the more normal aspects of the faith, and light on many details about said warrior. However, it does reveal that their spiritual masters include one who lives on Venus and another who teaches at the "Astral Plane." Also, there is a guy named Paul Twitchell from Kentucky.

Since the ECK Temple is located in Chanhassan, Minnesota, not far from my house, Might this merit a visit?

Friday, October 28, 2011


Haiku Friday: Road Food

You're driving, and driving, and driving some more. It's time to eat... it's time for some road food.

My favorite story about road food came from someone else. For some reason he was driving through West Virginia, and stopped at a diner. He was interested in the fish sandwich, and asked the waitress "what kind of fish is it?"

She said she didn't know, but ducked into the kitchen and emerged with the answer.

"I asked the cook," she announced, "he said it's the square kind."

So... let's haiku about road food. Here is mine:

So delicious, the
Fish that is perfectly square.
Makes it hard to swim!

Now it is your turn. Author a haiku that is roughly 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third, and you may win the grand prize-- your bio here on Monday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: More on OWS

Last week, I wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement, expressing some confusion about what they are after (much as I didn't understand the Tea Party movement back when they actually did some things in public). I got many interesting responses via email, and the best of the lot was this fascinating and informative essay by UST student Phil Steger:

The obvious thing that everyone should be clear that the protesters are upset about is economic inequality in this country. This is plain from the "99% vs. 1%" message that people can spend a lot of time picking apart but miss the main point of. The fact is that over the last 30-40 years, the United States - and the world at large - has experienced an alarmingly unequal distribution of wealth. While the annual incomes and total wealth of the richest 1% and 1/10 of 1% have increased sharply and keep increasing, the annual wages of the bottom 99% have remained stagnant, barely keeping up with and in many cases falling behind inflation. Quibble over where the lines should be drawn - at 1/10 of 1%, 1% or 10% - as you may, the overwhelming fact for the overwhelming majority is that their wages are not keeping up with expenses - healthcare, food, education, housing - and the loans they've taken out for school and homes and consumer products (which the best and brightest and the richest relentlessly pressured them to take out by appeals both to personal self-interest and the interests of national economic growth) means they are always trying to build wealth out of holes. Part of what galls many of us is the fact that the Wall Streeters (meant inclusively to refer to actual Wall St investment bankers, but also lobbyists and congressmembers, big bankers and others who've been aggressively pushing neoliberalism) who pushed and pressured us to borrow in the 90s and 00s, and who paid huge sums to lobby the mostly wealthy congressmembers to bring down the barriers between conventional and investment banks and to remove debt-to-asset rations, and who made 100s of millions of dollars from leveraging our debt and even from betting against it, now have the chutzpah to wag their fingers at our irresponsible borrowing and bad gambles on buying homes and getting the wrong college degrees.

So, there's huge economic inequality. And only the very naive would believe that economic equality doesn't translate into political inequality as the very wealthy consider political contributions and lobbying expenses to be rational investments in creating more favorable business environments for their various interests. This would be true under any system. Under a political system with enormously expensive elections, this is even more so.

So now, we not only see an economy producing enormously rich "winners" (and not all "winners" are equal...few OWSers begrudge Steve Jobs his wealth and fortune because we can see how genius and drive and hard work and interest in people led him to create products many of us love and feel make our lives better...but please explain how hedge fund managers contribute in the same way to our lives) while piling up more and more "losers" of which we see not only ourselves, but our parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, classmates, and friends. We also see those economic winners cozying up with the policymakers to create rules that tip the balance of factors in favor of the winners, again and again. And this. Drives. Us. Crazy.

This is not just an issue for liberals who tend to value equality over pure liberty, at least in economic matters. It ought to be an issue of extreme concern to conservatives, who, at least until the Republican and Reagan radicalism of the last 30 years, placed stability, security and the preservation of hard-won civil and communal traditions and institutions somewhat ahead of both equality and liberty. Want the division of child against parent? Make the parent rich and the child poor. Make the price for the parent's comfort in old age be the child's opportunity to find a job and raise a family. Want to erode trust in a society's hard-won institutions and rule of law? Make it clear to young people that their votes don't count; only money counts. Deride them as hippies and lazy people, even better, as idiots who were too stupid to see that the world was much more ruthless than their parents taught them it was and that they were morons for not seeing, when they were adolescents, how their future was being mortgaged to pay for babyboomer excesses.

Think of what we're seeing in OWS as a reaction to the radical rewriting of the social contract that's taken place in just one generation. For our grandparents, the social contract was this: everybody pays in, everyone takes out. The better-off and more successful pay in more and take out less in direct services, but nevertheless are in a position to benefit the most from the overall health, strength, growth and stability of the political economy. The harder-luck pay in less and take out more in direct services but are less well-positioned to take advantage of the larger goods. Fair deal. The whole country prospers and we become the most powerful, secure, wealthy nation in the world. Our parents' generation's social contract was this. Why pay in more when you're rich? That's robbery. The rich should pay in less, the poor should take out less. The next generation should learn the value of hard work by being on their own from the get-go. Meanwhile, the rich and middle-age can suck up the benefits of the last generation's investments, earnings and savings with the next generation having no store to draw from. And our country stagnates, falls from its supreme intern national standing to one where, in measures like infant and child mortality, child and adult imprisonment, poverty and disease, it resembles Third World dictatorships.

So, this generation wonders, out loud, in public, in a variety of colorful and off-color ways: WTF?! I know one of your readers was scandalized that one person in the protest saw OWS as an amazing opportunity for random, anonymous sex. Surprise, surprise. Want to erode the value of stable, monogamous relationship and sexual discipline? Create a lot, I mean, a lot, of unemployed young people in the middle of a consumer culture that uses sex to sell everything. Give them nothing productive to do and little future to aspire toward and then hiss "shame, shame" when they decide immediate gratification is the way to go.

Everyone who's been paying attention by now should understand that although the official unemployment rate is a high 9%, that's not the real unemployment rate, in that it doesn't include people who've given up on finding a job, stopped looking, are unemployable. We should also know that the highest unemployment is suffered by the young, the ones to whom the most promises have been made. Some figures place this rate as high as 20%. Moreover, anyone paying attention should realize that we not only have a youth bubble, we have a youth bubble that is MUCH more diverse than our adult bubble. The very people that conservatives have been vilifying and blaming and using to divide the country for the last thirty years - gay people, African-Americans, Latinos - are now larger and larger percentages of the population. In Minnesota alone, 1 in 22 people over 65 is a person of color, but among children under 18, 1 in 3 are of color. Today's youth not only reject the scapegoating of minority populations, they are members of or best friends with those populations. And for members of these populations, the unemployment rates are again much higher, not just for the youth, but for their parents, too.

Want to know why young people are complaining about student loans? Back to social contract. A generation ago, a college degree was a distinct advantage in an economy that had a lot of great, blue collar jobs. It was a way out of hard, physical work, but was by no means the only route by which to attain the middle class. Then, globalization started up. There was a chance for the richest to make more money by sending manufacturing overseas where the labor was a fraction of the price. We were told, alternatively, that globalization was a) a force of human nature that could not be stopped and b) a good thing that would make us all richer. We were offered this promise: Let us create free trade zones all over the world, letting manufacturing jobs drain away to other shores, and we'll educate and train you to be at the top of the globalized economic food chain. Either way, we were told that the key thing for us was to get a college education. In the knowledge economy, thinkers would be rewarded. Meanwhile, globalization made competition for top teaching and research talent more expensive, so tuition had to go up. Moreover, the well-funded republican movement succeeded in selling the mantra of "no new taxes" and "cuts, cuts, cuts" using deficit scares and bullying to accomplish both cuts in financial aid and halts in the growth of education spending and, at the same time, tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, many of whom had already taken full advantage of globalization to offshore their wealth and avoid paying taxes on their income and wealth. So the deal was: get your education and prosper in the globalized economy; globalization is good, for everyone. But it's not. It might be inevitable (a moot point now, since we've thrown everything open and there's no unthrowing it), but it is plainly, manifestly, painfully not good for everyone. It is very, very, very, very good for a very few. Good for a few more. And very, very, very disruptive, unsettling and disadvantaging to the very many. Want to erode loyalty to the nation and a sense of patriotism? Have an economy where the best off view the nation as a resource pool to draw from and haul away to fantastically rich tax havens, far away from national law and national responsibility.

If globalization is inevitable, as it probably now is, then it is manageable as a country, SO LONG AS we feel we're all in it together. But we don't. The plainest message of all over the last 20 years is that we are not all in it together. You're on your own. If you're not successful, it's your own fault. Don't bother me. Rot there. By yourself.

You want a country that's going to make it through the next decade as a national union, a unity, a whole? You don't want a permanent underclass of disaffected youth preventing you from seeing plays on Broadway or visiting Times Square or whatever? You don't want America to fall further into class division and resentment, too poor, undereducated, unprepared for the demands of global competition? Then you better be about the business of genuinely understanding what young people are feeling and figuring out what to do about it. Hold your nose if you don't like the smell of hippies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A brief theological insight...

Yesterday, I talked to the Lex Vitae group at UST about engaging in civil discourse about important issues.

Part of my regret about our current political discourse is that there is so little of it-- that is, real and worthwhile discussion about what is important. People tend to talk to those who agree with them, because it is too risky to discuss tough topics with those who may oppose (and castigate) us.

Intriguingly, Christ did not seem to shy from discussion with those who disagreed with him the most. Consider how many of his conversations were with the Pharisees, for example; he always answered their questions, and at times it seems like they were just walking around town together.

A good example?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Dispatch from the Minnesota DMV

My paper for Friday was done and out, and by 10:30 yesterday morning I was ready for class and my presentation at St. Thomas today. Having checked off those tasks, I headed out for a long-dreaded trip to the DMV, to get a car registered here in Minnesota.

In Detroit, the DMV was the 8th Circle of Hell. It was like an emergency room without the medical attention-- lots of sick and damaged people waiting endlessly as their conditions worsened. It was only slightly better in Waco, where at least hey were reasonably efficient.

Rather than heading home to Edina's DMV, I slogged down to the office at Chicago and Lake in Minneapolis, which is located across the street from Chicago Liquor (which looks to have all the friendliness one might expect at a Chicago liquor store-- or at least the burglar bars).

The DMV is in a basement, so I went down and got in a short line to check in. Actually, there were only a few people in front of me and a few behind, and it moved so quickly that I had little time for eavesdropping. Still, I could pick up some things... the couple behind me spoke to one another in Spanish, and the woman in front of me was from Eritrea, and had her Uncle there to translate. Suddenly, the place was becoming more interesting. The translating uncle had the most beautiful voice, like velvet, and it was better in Tigrinya, as he explained things to his niece. They were registering a truck, it seemed, and the clerk nodded and smiled, and drew it on a bit of paper, and they all laughed and that was done.

I got a number and a form, and as I finished the form my number was called. I went to the counter and three minutes later I was done-- much of that consumed by my trying to locate my checkbook.

Then I walked upstairs, into the Midtown Global Market. Crikeys! That place has everything-- provided that what you are looking for is books in Swedish or Mexican candy marked "Not for sale in the USA"-- which is exactly the kind of thing I usually am looking for.

Suffice it to say, come to my house this halloween if what you are after is cucumber-flavored lollipops or tamarind gum!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Congratulations, Bob!

Our winner from Haiku Firday? Bob! Here was his winning submission, complete with subtle golf reference:

Hey IPLawSmurf:
Careful! You are treading on
Some dangerous turf!

Here, forthwith, is his life story:

Bob graduated from Baylor Normal School (as it was then known) in 1936 with a bachelor of arts in fashion merchandising and dentistry. He was the editor of The Round Up (Baylor's Wrestling Magazine) and was elected Outstanding Senior Man (Misdemeanors). He received a surveying certificate from the University of North Texas in 1938. His thesis, "Between Dallas and Fort Worth: Separating East From West With Barbed Wire, Spit, and Vinegar" was later released as an R-Rated educational filmstrip by the Markham Press. From 1938 to 1986, Darden was Cars and Pets Editor for The Waco Tribune-Herald. He also wrote for a number of magazines including Road & Track, Cat Fancier, AutoWeek, Tabby Fan, Lew's Automotive Monthly, and Kitty Kar Digest. In 1985, he was the ghostwriter for the autobiography of Toonces, the Cat That Could Drive a Car, a project that finally combined his two great loves.

In 1986, Bob received a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to study the role of cats in film at the University of Bristol in England, home of Britain's largest academic program focused on cats. During this time, he was bitten by a radioactive cat during a science experiment that went horribly wrong, an incident that led to a hospitalization of nearly seven months and the acquisition of strange new powers-- including retractible claws, a long tail, and a supersensitive sense of smell. Upon his return to the United States, he was briefly a member of the Justice League, a term which ended badly with what later became known as the "hairball incident."

In 1988, after a semester of teaching several courses in breaking and entering at Texas State Technical College, Bob began freelancing full time as a scent consultant, He accepted a Baylor tenure-track position in smelling in fall 1999, and received tenure in spring 2001.

His articles and short stories have appeared in Cat Fancy, Cat Fancier, Modern Cat, Feline Fascinations, and many other magazines, newspapers and journals. He has been interviewed or featured on All Things Considered, Tapestry (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) and Fresh Air, and has been interviewed in The New Yorker. He also appeared in the movie "Catwoman," which starred his former fiancé, Halle Berry.

Bob lives in Waco with his lovely and talented wife Mary and is a deacon at Seventh & James Baptist Church. He is the drummer for After Midnight, a popular Waco-based R&B band.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Comment on my commentary...

... from Neil Alan Willard. See it here.


Sunday Reflection: Wisdom Not My Own

This Friday, I am presenting a paper that summarizes some of my core ideas about teaching. I have included the introduction below, and welcome your comments.

When I was a federal prosecutor, I got to be a tangential player in one of the great and compelling dramas in American law—a beautiful juxtaposition of transgression and truth, violence and principle.

A man (it was nearly always a man) would run from the police. He had robbed a bank, or sold narcotics, or fled the border, and was caught. He would run across a street, a field, a frozen lake, pursued by three or four officers. When he was caught, as he usually was, he would be thrown to the ground, rolled over, a knee would be placed roughly on his neck to hold him in place, and his hands would be shackled behind his back while he writhed on the ground.

It would be then—after the man was subdued but while he still struggled—that the most remarkable thing would happen. One of the officers would reach, still breathing heavily, into his pocket, retrieve a card, and read aloud the Great Principles of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment:
You have the right to remain silent.
You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.
You can decide at any time to stop any questioning….

What a glorious, amazing thing! There in that rough field or alleyway, the improbable is recited—that we do not force confessions, that we value counsel, and that we do not favor the rich over the poor. These are principles. These exemplify wisdom. And, sadly, they are rarely addressed as such in law school, where we bury ourselves in rules that have come to encase those principles within a thick coat of opaque and hoary jurisprudence.

This paper has a simple premise: That if we are to teach towards wisdom in addition to knowledge, we must teach principles in addition to rules. Principles, unlike rules, allow room for personal agency, inner conflict, and the entry of the Holy Spirit—a perfect recipe for wisdom.

Allowing our students a route to wisdom requires that we teach principles as well as rules, and that we distinguish between the two. In the end, when we see true wisdom—in heroes from Aristotle to Martin Luther King, Jr.—we see it in those who pursued principle even when those principles transgressed the rules.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It's semi-official....

I'm going Episcopal.


The (intriguing) musings of Sean Cahill

In response to my piece in the Star Tribune last week, Sean Cahill (a sharp UST law grad and former student of mine) sent me some thoughts that I thought merit broader reading:

1. Moral/Religious Conversation in America

A. Liberals/Secular Society's Need, But Failure, To Be Fluent In Moral Thought/Beliefs

My greatest disappoint in liberal society is it willingness to ignore thousands of years of philosophy and theology in light of a political agenda. I think anyone who has spent serious time reading St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, or C.S. Lewis realizes that the questions and answer posed by Christianity are not easily dismissed or ignored. However, many liberals absolutely refuse to engage with these thoughts...and in many cases, it is because they cannot. Many simply are not fluent in religious language, much less moral language. If you put a devout Christian (or any member of faith), a moderate person of faith/secularity, and an avowed atheist into one room and ask them to talk morality- it is like ships passing in the night. No common grounds, no common language, no common starting points. We need to find that common language. I'd argue that the language needs to be based one steeped in the language of traditional norms and that the non-religious must learn it.

But why the place the burden on non-religious rather than the religious? I'd argue that since non-religious movements are trying confront "traditional" notions, they bear the burden of proofs, so to say. As the ones pushing for change, I believe that they bear the burden of presenting their case in terms which address the principles and concerns of the traditional. Traditional norms are not without their validity because they have offered some sort of stability and reasonable governance of society. In addition, their values are legitimate- if God does exists, there is definite reason to be concerned with his thoughts on the matter. Liberals need to be able to discuss how they appreciate and have considered those traditional norms and why their liberal is not completely removed from other valid norms. There is a fantastic book called, Imagined Communities from a historian named Benedict that highlights that new governments/social movements must generally claim the heritage of an early community to be considered legitimate. By adopting the mantle of a previous community, the new movement shows that is based on something that once was legitimate, but lost. I think this an essential part to advocating a new idea because it validates our human experience and previous trials. By grounding a new thought in an old idea- we both validate the traditional and empower the new. That being said, in the current issue, I think "queer theology" is just emerging from its nascent beginnings and is struggling to develop itself. Where academics are struggling, it is no surprise that average people are without the language to deal with the issue. In summary, the language may not be there yet...but maybe once we can do that, the issue will much more quickly resolved

An important distinction, however, is the difference between the militant scientist/atheist and the moderate, average person on only engages in superficial or generalized discussion. The militant refuses to embrace moral/religious language on the basis that it is founded and derived from a fantastical (in the derogatory sense) story or imagined construct. Consequently, the language and thought process itself is flawed based on a mistaken (or assumed) first principle- God exists. In contrast, the militant scientist's insistence on proof, evidence and objective measurements is naturally abhhorent to persons of faith. The refusal to even consider the other side's evidence or language of explanation pretty much ensures that any attempted discussion is dead on arrival.

On the flip side, I think philosopher's tend to be a bit more forgiving given that philosophy has tried to play with concepts of a "first mover" and the nature of non-physical existence. (I.e., "Cogito,ergo sum." or its Chrisitan predecessor from St. Augustine: "Pecco, ergo sum"). Maybe we all need to be a little more like philosophers and not activists.

However, I think most people cannot approach religious discussions because they don't have the tools. From lack of language of itself (i.e.,even a working, comprehensive definition of the idea of "faith" is hard to come by) to an inability to withhold our personal convictions (and interepreting disagreement as personal affronts), people are quite unable to speak on the issue at all without considerable frustration and pain. The few chances we take in offering controversial opinions is often met with derision and anger because we are neither understood in our offer nor understanding of a response. I.e. "I think gays are entitled to equal rights." Response: "Thats because you failing to consider God's intended purpose." Counter: "God's 'purpose' is an archaic notion that has no place dictating modern policy." In three lines, everyone is offended because we can't listen and respond in terms that are not offensive to the other side. Again, a common, respectful approach is required, but not presently embraced.

Also, most people do not have time or desire to commit to this type of discussion. "I'm just going to think what I want, and leave me alone" sort of mentality. As a society, we need to acknowledge that we are being confronted with dramatically different ways of viewing and understanding our human existence. No one can afford to sit on the sidelines. If anything, we all need to practice and live argument so that when someone from the opposing side speaks, we can at least understand and respond.

B. Greater Need For Acknowledgment and Articulation of Atheist/Secular Morality

A common problem with dealing with atheism and/or secular morality is there are little resources or persons who can present an organized, rational articulation of an atheist morality. I'm not saying it does not exist, but it does not have the benefit of 2000 years of human history to write down. Serious efforts need to be taken by atheism/secularism to develop its own moral system. For starters, I think one needs to start with a valuation of the human person and the human experience. Indeed, if our goal is "equal rights," it seems necessary that an atheist principle must espouse why there is a need for rights at all. Again, I'm not saying such explanations do not exist, I just contend they are neither readily available, widely shared, or commonly known. And without it, the religious have nothing to engage or compare itself with.

Conversely, members of faith needs to at least appreciate that atheism/secularism is not practically evil. While we may disagree fundamentally, that does not mean that we cannot find common practical grounds to share and espouse. This is sort of a "ends matter, means do not" type argument. By at least, turning to practical similarities (i.e., violence is bad), we can at least attempt to craft reasonable laws and/or mores.

C. Science Is At Its Limit In Issues of Sexuality

With respect to human sexuality, there is a lot of new questions posed by science that do not have answers. Transgender issues and experiences raise troubling questions that shatter assumptions about physicality, the nature of gender, and morality associated with perceived gender roles. Yet, no answers can provided! We have yet to explain why transgenderism or homosexuality occurs in nature, its effects, or the consequences it has on others who are exposed to it. (I.e., the notion of "gay parents=gay kids."). There is a huge vacuum in science. Like homosexulaity, where the religious cry out: "Disordered Love!!"; scientists are left to respond: "But it seems okay, practically...." without a whole lot of evidence. Dealings with love, emotions, and attraction are still fairly mysterious to us, I'd argue. Until science can provide some evidence on its own terms (i.e. objective, measurable data) or atheist system of values/philsopgy , the conversation will be inflammatory and derisive.

2. Who Is Talking? Academia, Not Media Punditry, Needs to Step Up and Actively Participate

I'll give you kudos for this one. I think you're unique in your approach that you're willing to take a public stance on issues and reflect on them in an open forum. More academics need to do just that- reflect in public. With the growing rise of individualistic media, larger media corporations are abandoning principles of neutrality. (The debate whether "neutrality" existed at all is a whole other question...) Regardless, with the rise of position-drive media, there is a greater need for experienced "thinkers" to serve as examples of reasonable, thoughtful consideration. Pundits don't serve as examples of moderation or exemplify how a general citizen may approach and weigh an issue; they merely offer catchy phrases and snarky bullets that are easily repeated. What we need are conversations in which a person can both validate and empower both sides of the issue. Instead of find ways to shoot down one side, commentators need to find ways in which they can acknowledge and co-opt opposing principles.

In short, reflection, meditation, and conversation are not celebrated or exhibited methods to approaching an issue. In a world dominated by definitive, bombastic headlines, "Maybe" has no place. We should be turning to reasoned consideration rather than popularist advocacy to answer these issues. Otherwise, we end up isolating everyone and no one wants to get together at all to do anything constructive. But then again, when has "shut up and listen" ever been popular?

Friday, October 21, 2011


Haiku Friday: Welcome, IPLawSmurf!

It's wonderful to welcome a new character to the blog, one who showed up out of the blue (so to speak) yesterday. Welcome to IPLawSmurf!

I can only assume that this guy is working as a low-paid associate to IPLawGuy at his large law firm. This much we can assume: He is blue, he cares deeply about intellectual property, and he has found his way over to the Razor.

So, let's welcome IPLawSmurf in Haiku! Feel free to offer advice about the Razor, modern America, or just about anything else. I would suggest using the first line of "Hey, IPLawSmurf!" Here is mine:

Hey, IPLawSmurf!
It's good times at the Razor,
Now there's two Christines...

Go ahead and make your own-- just make sure it is more or less 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third. As usual, the prize will be your bio here on Monday....

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Occupy Wall Street

I'm as baffled by Occupy Wall Street as I am by the Tea Party protests, neither of which seem to have a coherent core of belief.

I think that the Tea Party movement was in large part driven by private money and older people who had some personal beef with the government-- a perception informed mainly by the Tea Party people I talked to (one of whom was upset because he had been rejected in his bid for Social Security Disability checks).

The Occupy Wall Street protests are (unlike the Tea Party) not something I have personally observed, but they seem even more unfocused and are driven largely by unemployed people who have time on their hands and anger to express.

The media seems to think that Occupy Wall Street is a significant development, but I am not so sure it is going to have an impact-- being vaguely mad at rich people is not much of a political platform.

What do you think is going on?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Halloween 1994

As you can see in the photo above, I was the Original Box Head Guy-- it was my Halloween costume in 1994. I'm not sure what Eric Drummond, in the photo next to me, was supposed to be, exactly. It was the '90's.

What you can't see in the photo is that I have a trick up my sleeve. I had procured a "tongue-activated half mouse," a little gizmo where you put what looked like the back half of a mouse in your mouth, and you could wiggle the tail by jiggling a button with your tongue. It was excellent-- when people tried to find out who was in the box, I would take it off and wiggle the tail of the mouse.

Notably, this was before 9/11, and thus our Lebanese friend could go as a terrorist:

I had several great Halloweens in Waco, too, including one with a fortune teller... now that's fun. And a little spooky, looking back on it...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011



Should I be Box-Head-Guy? Any better ideas?

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's a tie!

Now that I have purchased the blog back from RRL, it falls to me to judge the haiku contest. My decision: It's a tie!

First, we have this dazzler from Neil Alan Willard:

Free gifts at Christmas
Blitzen always resented.
“They don’t deserve them.”

Also in first, this winner from the always-stellar Megan Willome:

No squib was Neville.
Augusta sent a howler--

Coincidentally, I can do a bio on both... because their life stories are tragically intertwined.

It was the 90's at Wake Forest, a fine school deep in the piney woods of North Carolina. It is a school where football is a forgotten stepchild, basketball is an afterthought, but liturgical dance is king. And the king of liturgical dance was Neil Alan Willard. He swept the school championship with a triumphant performance based on the first stanza of Song of Solomon's second chapter, leaving the audience literally in tears before rising as one in full-throated roar.

Meanwhile, in Central Texas, liturgical dance was almost unknown, due to the fear of dancing. Yet one woman soldiered on, performing where she could-- Unitarian potlucks, stoner weddings, SXSW-- and honed her skills until she was the best liturgical dancer no one ever heard of.

It is inevitable that the two would meet, and they did: In the national finals, which were part of Liturgi-Con 1995 in Jeffersonville, Tennessee. The theme was "Noah after the flood," a challenging passage for any dancer. Too challenging, it turned out, as both were arrested for indecency for their separate performances and the grand prize was awarded to the third-place finisher, Box Head Guy.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


Sunday Reflection: My Neighbor

Yesterday, I drove my mom from Minneapolis down to Chicago, and this evening I sat on a porch in the cool fall air with my mother and father and sister, eating and laughing. There is a gentleness to such days; they can't be forced.

Yesterday's article in the Star Tribune lead to a lot of wonderful messages, from some people I knew and many I didn't (but now I do). One asked why I wrote it, and the truth is this: On Thursday afternoon, I heard Dale Carpenter of the University of Minnesota speak very eloquently on the issue at St. Thomas, and then on Friday morning, working on something else, I found myself reading the passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus announces the Two Great Commandments.

To me, that moment in which Jesus answers the lawyer's question is freighted with great meaning. It marks the shift in our faith from the primacy of rules to the primacy of principles-- after all, they ask Jesus what the greatest commandment (or rule) is, and he answers with two principles (love God, and love your neighbor).

Principles are harder than rules, because they require such active engagement on our part. They tell us how we should think about something in deciding on an action, not what to do, and that is hard work.

Hard work, though, is a blessing, as I was reminded again today, even amidst the gentleness of fall.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


In Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune...

is this piece I wrote after a debate on gay marriage at St. Thomas on Thursday of this week. Let me know what you think!

Meanwhile, I am taking my Mom down to Chicago today, on her way back to Detroit. We will get to spend the night with my sister Kathy, pictured here doing some kind of race my mom probably doesn't know about:

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have repurchased the blog from RRL!

Osler buys a blog
by: oslerguy


Haiku Friday: Conservative Heroes!

It is I, RRL, owner of the blog, and associate at a large law firm. This week, we will haiku about well-known conservative figures. You can choose from the following:

1) Ronald Reagan
2) Tonya Harding
3) Dick Cheney
4) Blitzen The Reindeer
5) Augusta Longbottom
6) Barry Goldwater
7) Rory Ryan
8) Barney The Dinosaur
9) Chuck Norris
10) Gandolf
11) Mitt Romney
12) Eyeore
13) William F. Buckley
14) Grar the Giant Maverick Panda
15) RRL
16) Half of Led Zeppelin
17) Snuggles, the Fabric Softener Bear
18) George Will
19) King Zog
20) Blob

Just write a haiku. I might send you a giant pile of money, or wine, or some dynamite. Or not.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em-

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Fixing America, RRL Style!

RRL buys the blog
by: oslerguy

RRL here. Welcome to the new, better, much more conservative Razor!

And today's PMT topic is...


This country is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions. Old Testament real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

The question of who is to blame comes down to a fundamental question, where do you think we should go? If you think we should go towards a huge welfare state then the "tea party" (or as they are known in some circles, "Panopticon 2.0") is to blame, because they put a roadblock (a costly one) in the way of unbridled spending by refusing to support new taxes. If you think we should go towards balanced budgets, reasonable spending, small government, unicorns, fairies, and pots of gold then lots of people are to blame. Bush and the Republican congress that allowed spending to get out of control in the last decade. The Democrats in congress that pushed through three rounds of wasteful stimulus spending. The Democrats in the Senate that haven't proposed a budget in THREE YEARS. And, if you really want to get crazy, then go back to the Democrats in congress who told Reagan during the last real debt ceiling fight that if he raised the debt ceiling they would promise real meaningful spending cuts, and then turned around and never did it, which some conservative Republicans have never forgotten. This problem didn't start two years ago. It didn't start 10 years ago. It started decades ago.

Did this bring us to the brink of disaster? Probably not. I mean, they're still playing baseball games, people are still shopping, nobody has built thunderdome yet. It is bad, but it isn't cataclysmic. But I applaud the efforts of those who said that raising taxes isn't enough (because it isn't) and we have to start finding ways to reign in spending (because we do) and refused to give in, because that is the only way meaningful change was going to happen. And it has to happen. Because we can't tax our way out of the pile of debt we have.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


UST in Top 10 for "Best Professors"

Great News! The Princeton Review ranked the University of St. Thomas in the Top 10 for "Best Professors." We were #8. Filling out the top 10 were the University of Chicago, Duke, Stanford, the University of Virginia, Wake Forest, Boston University, Pepperdine, Mercer, and Loyola. The results were based on a poll of law students.

Baylor Law retained its #1 spot for "Most Competitive Students" (the rest of that top 10 contained BYU, Thomas Cooley, Nova Southeastern, Campbell, Regent, Whittier, Roger Williams, Southern University, and Hastings). I'll admit to being somewhat baffled by what "Most Competitive Students" is supposed to be measuring. If it means that the students compete with one another (which has negative connotations), I will repeat something I said in my last lecture there: What I saw was Baylor Law students supporting one another at the toughest times, and a culture that simply pushed them to be good lawyers, not the kind of petty competition found at some schools.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


That Worked!


Sad Panda

It's been a tough week. My mom, visiting from Detroit, broke her hip (but she has done great coming out of surgery and working towards recovery). I have a lot of people expecting a lot of things from me, and it looks like I won't be going on the fishing trip this weekend to Port Aransas-- something I've been looking forward to. Sigh. It's one of those times that I feel like I am carrying a great weight, and not making much headway. I just feel worn out.

Any tips from Razortopia?

Monday, October 10, 2011


Haiku Winner Announced!

Renee wins!
by: oslerguy

It's hard not to love last week's haikus-- there were so many good ones. Still, I could not get this one, by Renee, out of my head:

A spring green John Deere
Truck,which she eased into ditch
Like foot to slipper.

One other reader asked if John Deere made trucks, and in fact it appears that Chevy marketed John Deere pickups at one time. Who knew? At any rate, it's hard to criticize a poem with the line "she eased into the ditch/Like foot to slipper."

As for Renee, her story is well known to many. America's foremost militant creedalist, she has spent the past three decades forcing the Nicene Creed on those who refuse to say it. Most recently, she was arrested in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for holding hostage three Amish men who refused her insistence that they say the creed. In this instance she employed "The Convincer," a Mossburg pump-action 500 Shotgun she stole from a trucker near Reno. She has previously been involved in what she calls "dynamic creed conversions" in 31 states, Puerto Rico, Aruba, and the Northern Mariana Trust Territory.

Many have faced Renee's persuasions in this regard-- Mennonites, Quakers, Jews, and Atheists alike. She is a past recipient of the Knights of Columbus "Golden Rule" award, the Nicene's "Legends of the Creed" medal, and was first runner-up for Miss Washington USA in 1978. She now resides in Edina, Minnesota, where everyone says the creed.

One can only imagine how she found this blog.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Human like us

I think it is fascinating what happened when Jesus went home:

1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

This is as human as Jesus gets. He is a carpenter in his hometown. People won't accept him as anything more.

I am uncomfortable with this very human Jesus. The picture here, of Jesus doing woodworking, seems grating and sacrilegious in a way. But, it is Jesus in a role that God wrote for him, to those of us who are believers, just as God gave him the role of criminal defendant.

More shockingly, Jesus can't perform miracles there, because the people don't believe. So, it seems, it takes both of us to make things happen. God's power, at least through Jesus, is not the type that is forced upon us unwillingly.

I hope to become more willing...

Saturday, October 08, 2011


A short rememberance

I'm writing this on an Apple MacBook Air.
Downstairs is my old MacBook and a Mac desktop.
In my pocket is an iPhone.
On the bureau to my left is an iPod shuffle that I use when I run.

I bought each one for the same reason: They took something complex and made it simple. That is the essence of genius. As a teacher, that is what I so halting try to achieve.

Many years ago, I gave up on almost everything touched by Microsoft. I could give a thousand reasons, but the core of it all was about arrogance.

In the same way that genius is taking something simple and making it complex, arrogance is often in the form of creating needless complexity.

Why would anyone create needless complexity? The answer is simple-- it gives you power. If we can learn or create a language others don't know, for example, and sell an essential service as dependent on understanding that language, we have created a profession. The needless use of Latin phrases in law is one manifestation of this.

Microsoft created a language, or rather a series of them-- each of which made us count on Microsoft rather than ourselves. When people complained enough about the complexity in one of the Microsoft programs, the company gave us Clippy. There was no discernable way to turn Clippy off, so I turned on to Apple.

When I bought this computer, a thin, light wedge, I opened it and it began to work. That is as good as it gets, and the product of true vision.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Haiku Friday: Transit!

Do to an especially unusual week, I ended up taking the bus home from work on Wednesday. Minneapolis has a great public transit system (I also took the train in from the airport to work earlier that day), and it was a pleasure to have a bus route that goes almost directly from work to home.

Still, I was a terrible bus rider-- incompetent in a way I haven't been since my ill-fated afternoon in Grand Marais a few years ago. I knew the fare was $2.25, and I had exact change ready to go-- two dollar bills and a quarter. I got on the bus and jammed the money into the slot on top of the fare box.

Sadly, that slot was only for coins. The driver had to fish the bills out and then showed me the clearly labeled slot for the dollar bills. Oops.

Then, it quickly became clear that I was on the wrong bus, as it headed off in the wrong direction.

So, let's haiku about transportation this week-- by whatever means. Your favorite car, a plane trip, bus ride, whatever. Your prize will be your bio here on Monday.

Here is mine:

IPLawGuy's car,
My bus in college, but it
Had no certain route.

Now it is your turn-- just make it three short lines, and we'll all be happy.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Socialized Medicine

This is something I have been wondering about for a while.

Despite the horror stories about socialized medicine, haven't we had a single-payer health care system in this country for decades, which is available to everyone, with the only stipulation being that you are over 65? That's Medicare in a nutshell.

Medicare seems to have been successful at providing services, but many would say it is a financial disaster. And no wonder-- the insurance pool only includes those most prone to medical expenses (though all workers pay into it while they work). Wouldn't it just make sense to drop the age restriction to Medicare and allow anyone to join? That would allow the risk pool to broaden. It wouldn't be mandatory-- you could just opt into Medicare at any age, and pay a premium.

What is the problem with that? (I confess that I am not an expert in this field-- I really do want to know what I am missing).

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


... and in the New York Times

We have this great piece about mandatory sentences from Jeanne Bishop.


Just Up at the Huffington Post...

A bit of Friday Night Lights. You can see it here.


Gopher Denouement

Michigan 58
Minnesota 0


Things are looking pretty bad for Goldy the Gopher and his pals these days. Not long ago, I got to see the Golden Gophers lose to a terrible New Mexico State team, and things have gone downhill from there.

Last weekend, the Gophers were pasted by Michigan. Here are some of the humiliations they suffered here in the hometown Minneapolis Star Tribune:

1) They were described as embodying "Minnesota Nice." (especially re tackling)

2) The defense was said to have been simply "ignored" by the Michigan offense, as they offered the type of resistance one usually gets from "cones," and that they seemed to want to "negotiate individually with each ball carrier."

3) The scoreboard was described as resembling a "telethon tote board."

4) Again on the tackling: "Like they were playing flag football."

Of course, I have been through this before, as a season-ticket holder for Baylor football from 2000-2009. And, I have to say, Coach Kill of Minnesota seems to have been studying the Guy Moriss media handbook. Here is what he said after the Gophers' worst loss in 116 years of Big 10 conference play:

Afterward, a philosophical Kill likened his program to a "broken-down company" that he's trying to make profitable.

"When you don't have a lot of success, sometimes you come apart instead of moving together," Kill said. "That's part of the trial-and-error process of turning around a program. It's frustrating for everybody. It's frustrating for me, it's frustrating for the kids."

So, I'm choosing to look at it this way-- if they are like Baylor 2002 now, I have Baylor 2011 to look forward to!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011



As I have written before, I kind of like the way that my life is divided up geographically-- in Minneapolis, I am a teacher, in New York I am a writer, and in DC I am a lawyer.

So, today I get to be a lawyer. I'm wearing a suit, so that must be the deal. I have two meetings on two important issues here in Washington--

1) Rep. Hansen Clarke on drug policy.
2) Several people at the DOJ regarding juvenile life without parole.

It's a beautiful time in a beautiful city. See you back in Minneapolis tomorrow!

Monday, October 03, 2011


The winner

Who knew that there could be so many good haikus about Goofus and Gallant? Excellent work, all. I liked Renee's work with this one:

I invited him to dinner
He never said please or thank you.
Wild boy--come again.

And this one by Louisville Jill:

Gallant will grow up
To be that creepy neighbor
With too many cats

But the winner is Zoetrope, for this:

That tilt of the head-
A mom, so exhausted that
She just lets him go.

I adore the way Zoe focuses on the hidden aspect of Goofus-- that his parents are often in the frame, watching his misdeeds.

So, herewith, is Zoetrope's story:

Zoetrope (born June 12, 1924) is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States (1989–93). He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President (1981–89), a congressman, an ambassador, Czar of Sweetness, and Director of Central Intelligence.

Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at the age of 18, Zoetrope postponed going to college and became the youngest aviator in the US Navy at the time. He served until the end of the war, then attended Yale University. Graduating in 1948, he moved his family to West Texas and entered the candy cigarette business, becoming a millionaire by the age of 40.

He became involved in politics soon after founding his own licorice company, serving as a member of the House of Representatives, among other positions. He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 1980, but was chosen by party nominee Ronald Reagan to be the vice presidential nominee, and the two were subsequently elected. During his tenure, Zoetrope headed administration task forces on deregulation, Pez, and fighting drug abuse.

After serving as Vice President, Zoetrope left public life to become CEO of the New England Confectionary Company, makers of NECCO wafers. In this office, he launched several initiatives that revolutionized the candy industry, including the rejection of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, and the introduction of candy lips.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Sunday Reflection: My Favorite Christian Video

Earlier this week, I mentioned my odd obsession with LMFAO's video for the formulaic, autotuned "Party Rock Anthem." Yesterday, though, it came together in my head-- I am obsessed because it is the perfect Christian music video.

I know, I know... LMFAO is a group whose body of work revolves around drinking, stripping, and dancing. This is all true. However, the beauty of art is that each of us can strip away the artists' intent, and make what we want of their work. In that spirit, I am re-visioning this video as Christian artwork. Here's the deal: I will describe the video first, and then watch it while looking for what I describe. In the end, see if you don't agree with me.

At the start, our protagonists are lying in a spiritual coma. They are jolted to life by a blaze of light-- the Holy Spirit. They walk outside into a fallen world, devoid of life and meaning. Soon they are pulled to the ground by a mysterious figure in white, who tells them frantically that there is some kind of universal force at work. He tells them that it pervades "the whole world, everything-- it will get in your bones!" The universality of the Spirit is inescapable. At about 1:36, he urges them not to listen, and tells them to block their ears.

Suddenly, there is life, The street is filled with joy as people dance-- all the people of the kingdom of God-- young and old, black, white, hispanic, Asian, are possessed by this spirit. At about 2:04, there is a twist to the story. A young man, hood pulled up over his head, is trying to hide from the spirit. He runs into the street, and is quickly surrounded by the dancers. It transforms him, and as they pull away we see him joining in the dance of life.

At about 3:00, one of the protagonists is confessing his own sins ("I got the devilish blue, rock and roll, no halo"), and is followed by the others who are caught up in the spirit. At about 3:40, there is a fundamental change-- the group morphs from an uncoordinated mob into a tightly-knit cohort, joined together to dance as one. This continues until the protagonist announces "Hate is bad," which leads into an amazing display of individual acts of joy.

It is right then, at about 4:20, that Jesus appears (really). and the music shifts into overdrive. People are inspired to super-human acts, and Jesus wades right in, fully human, at one with the people of the street in all their diversity. At 5:45, Jesus briefly comes to the fore, in synch with the others, as the song comes to an end.

I doubt that LMFAO intended any of this, but it can be what I see, and I choose to see beauty everywhere it can be found.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


What is "The Cloud?"

I have seen a lot of references in the media and advertising to "The Cloud." These sources never seem to explain, exactly, what The Cloud is, though.

From what I can guess, it is a place to store information out there someplace on the internet. It just kind of floats up into the cloud (instead of your hard drive) until you need it.

I'm not sure why that is good. It definitely sounds like the start of a horror movie.

Meanwhile, back in the world of low tech, St. Stephens is having its "Applefest" today, which features someone called a "Pickle Fairy." This is something else that I can't explain.

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