Friday, February 28, 2014


Haiku Friday: The restaurant you long for

As restaurant chains spread out,  people in Texas are looking forward to getting their own Dunkin' Donuts.  It's a weird thing-- we often want what we don't have, and that extends to restaurants.

Let's haiku about that today... the restaurant you wish was close.  It doesn't need to be (and maybe shouldn't be) a chain, just that place far away that you wish was close, whether it serves New York bagels or breakfast tacos.

Here, I will go first:

Hello, Waffle House!
Why is it that I love you?
'Cause I'm just hungry...

Now it is your turn!  Just use 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and five more in the third, and you're in...

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Weird Landscape of "Religious Freedom"

Last weekend I was in Arizona, as we performed the Trial of Jesus in Tucson.  All the political talk there was about a proposed law which would allow people to discriminate against gay men and lesbians without fear of being sued, if their discrimination was based on religious conviction.  In the end, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill after business interests made a fuss.

Sadly, the only context in which I hear people plea for "religious freedom" lately has been in the context of trying to deny people coverage under health plans for birth control or discriminate against gay men and lesbians-- and all of the pleas to be able to do these things come from Christians. 

Just as the Constitution doesn't actually create "separation of church and state" (rather, it bars the establishment of a national religion by Congress), it doesn't guarantee "religious freedom"-- instead, it allows that Congress cannot "prohibit" the free exercise of religion. 

Is discriminating against gays really how Christians "exercise" their religion?  It seems contrary to what I know of my faith, which requires us to love our neighbor-- even if our neighbors are very different than us.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Just up on HuffPo...

Another piece about narcotics (with no Ted Nugent involvement).


Me n' Ted Nugent

So, Ted Nugent and I have a lot in common.  We're both from Detroit, and then he moved to Waco a few years after I did.  We both have "problem hair."  We both have written regularly for the Waco Tribune Herald (including, at least once, on the same day).   We agree (kind of) that drugs are bad.  I actually own his ski hat and end table, having bought them at his garage sale back in Waco.  

I don't agree with him, though, about President Obama.  I think Obama has generally done a good job, and I'm really encouraged by some recent developments.

When Ted Nugent calls the president a "sub-human mongrel," he crosses a lot of lines.  Moreover, it's just silly.  Really-- a "sub-human?"  What is remarkable is that until pretty much yesterday the Republican establishment in Texas embraced Nugent in all of his offensive bluster.  It might be that those days are over.  If so, that's a good thing.

I'm also pretty sure that he isn't following me to Minnesota any time soon...  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


More Adventures in North Korea!

In my monthly troll around the internet looking for information about North Korea, I found this fascinating promotional video for a North Korean Department store:

Certainly, there is a lot to hold one's attention here, but my favorite curiosity was the saran-wrapped American Hillbilly Kid which appears at about 1:21 of the video.  I can't say that the fashions were to my taste, but I suppose there are those who love it.

If you want even more, check out North Korean fast food!  It features unbelievably intricate ordering processes (including lots of handwritten notes), a lot of empty space, and (at about 3:35), an incredibly healthy looking set of ingredients for fast food!

Monday, February 24, 2014


Read all about it! Criminal law stuff!

I had this piece in yesterday's Waco Tribune Herald... but probably more important was Bill Keller's piece in the New York Times.  The ending gives me great hope:

The Obama presidency has almost three years to go, and there is reason to hope that he will feel less constrained, that the eight commutations were not just a pittance but, as he put it, “a first step,” that Holder’s mounting enthusiasm for saner sentencing is not just talk, but prelude, that the president will use his great pulpit to prick our conscience.

“This is something that matters to the president,” Holder assured me last week. “This is, I think, going to be seen as a defining legacy for this administration.”



Thanks for the great birthday haikus.  I love this one from A Waco Friend, because I could see so clearly each part of the story (it helps to know Waco):

Three couples over;
Gourmet dinner I cooked it;
Three Redneck Tenors.

Best Birthday gifting
enjoy my food and then laugh
at great comedy

Good music, humor
All genres well sung by four
at the Hippodrome.

And Renee's birthday.... can we get video of this?

The bride pink roses
In blush and lime ewer,with
Chocolate noir, fizz

Gold cold champagne,they
Dance round May pole bloom-covered,
Barefoot, if it does

Not snow. Read poems
Shakespearean, crown May
Queen with rhinestones

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Sunday Reflection: God's Polar Vortex

It has been quite a winter in Minnesota.  On Thursday night, we got another foot of snow, which means there is about four to five feet in parts of my yard now.  This week, there was a brief warm-up right before that snow, which started out wet and heavy.  Then the temperatures plunged as the snow continued.  The melty stuff on the street froze, and then the falling snow created a glide plane on top of that.

Minnesotans know how to drive in snow-- slowly-- and there is something elegant about a freeway where everyone is going 15 miles per hour despite a lack of congestion.  It's just what you have to do.

There is such beauty in it, of course.  The light is dazzling, and the lines of white are unbroken.  But in another equally valid way it is driving people berserk.  It is going to be -17 again this week, and that is... well, it is really really cold.

It might all be part of our doing, I suppose, the result of climate change and the extremes of weather that come with that.  People who know the science of it think so, and I believe them.

But in a more embracing way, it is still all God's.  We are his creation, the part of it that can make mistakes, mess things up, hurt each other, and then make it all better if we so choose.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Criminal Law... still kind of dangerous

I regularly check in on the Waco Tribune-Herald (and write for them-- I'm on their Board of Contributors), and stumbled on an alarming story yesterday.

According to Tommy Witherspoon's excellent but disturbing article, a man sentenced to 46 months for possession of over 800 images of child pornography paid $30,000 to hire a hit man to kill my friend, Judge Matt Johnson.

Criminal law is a dangerous business.  It is all about tragedy,  Many of the people coming through the system are and will be dangerous.  The project, for prosecutors and judges, is nothing less than looking someone in the eye and telling them that they are going to lose their freedom.  That combination can lead to real and deep tragedy, of the kind that was avoided in Waco with this arrest.

Meanwhile, back in Grosse Pointe, it appears that my old high school is still employing completely crazy substitute teachers...

Friday, February 21, 2014


Haiku Friday: Birfday!

It's true; it is my birfday.  Sure, birthdays are a little like getting excited when the odometer flips over 10,000 or 100,000 miles, but... I get excited about that, too.

So, let's haiku about birthdays.  Which one was your favorite?  Did you ever get a great surprise on your birthday, or a memorable gift? 

I will go first:

It is another day
Like any other day; It
is what you make it.

Now it is your turn...  5/7/5 for syllables, fun for the attitude!

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Professor Irrelevant

This past Sunday, the New York Times ran an excellent column by Nicholas Kristof, titled Professors, We Need You!  In it, Kristof lamented the reluctance of modern professors to serve the role of public intellectuals and write for the public:

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.

One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama as “a snob” for wanting more kids to go to college, or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social science research. Yet it’s not just that America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also marginalized themselves.

“All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public,” notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics, history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business, and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.

A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.

“Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research,” said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution. “This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.”

The latest attempt by academia to wall itself off from the world came when the executive council of the prestigious International Studies Association proposed that its publication editors be barred from having personal blogs. The association might as well scream: We want our scholars to be less influential!

A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance.

Kristof makes some excellent points, particularly about scholarship.  I have been re-reading some of my favorite academic pieces lately, by my writing hero William Stuntz.  It is clear, sharp, and rooted in reality.  Too much of our work (mine included) falls far short of this standard.

Part of the problem, as Kristof recognizes, is that what is most rewarded is too often unintelligible to those outside a small circle of experts.  This inability or unwillingness to to communicate clearly is especially puzzling given the primary job that we have-- teaching beginners to our field.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


It is time for new shoes...

This winter has been pretty rough on Osler shoes-- I've had three pairs suffer catastrophic failure in the last few weeks, including a pair of boots I have had for about 20 years that suddenly just gave up and shredded.  

I'm open to suggestions...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


The Razor Recommends...

1)  In filmed entertainment, we recommend the Lego Movie's Bloopers Reel:

2)  If it is music related to the Olympics, we would urge you to give a listen to the Jamaican Bobsled Song (complete with a video apparently made on an Atari Game System):

Monday, February 17, 2014



This weeks haiku queen has to be Antonia Promessa for this work (if only because of the awesome response from Sally):

I do not grasp your
Sweater. Ecru lace trailing.
Silk liquefaction,

Pale yellow chemise
Falling on the path to bed,
My hand walks your bare

Chest. Full moon approves
Us golden. You Apollo,
I, Aphrodite.

No. I do not know
Your sweaters. Nor will I
Be known by them. Soft

Will win the taste
Of my pomegranate roses.
Fair Man, come hither.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The Amateur

Last Sunday, I gave the sermon at a wonderful place, First Covenant Church in Minneapolis.  You can hear the podcast here.

It occurred to me last night that I have given sermons in five different states (Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin), and in the past few years I have given about four a year (though never at the Free Indeed Jubilee House in Detroit, pictured above-- though I probably would if they asked).  It's something I am not trained in, other than spending eight years teaching oral advocacy with Randall O'Brien and Hulitt Gloer at Baylor.   THAT was quite an education, though.

There is this moment, right before I go to the pulpit, that happens every time I preach.  As I walk, there might be a stutter-step because I am having this thought:  "I have no business doing this."  Each time I am filling the spot of an exemplary preacher who leads that church, someone who has honed their craft and excelled, and in that moment of doubt I feel like I am just faking it. 

Early Sunday morning last week, I thought about that moment of doubt.  Should I try to avoid it?

In the end, I chose to embrace it.  I think that humbling makes me a better preacher-- it makes me vulnerable and real and uncertain, all of which are part of a deep truth.  I present myself as someone from the pews who got up that day and gave the sermon instead of listening to it, and that is good and honest.

In the end, I am the man before that church, flawd but hopeful, nothing more and nothing less.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Snow and tragedy

There is a cost to this odd weather, the long winter and snowstorms out East, and the icy mayhem down in the South.  People are terribly hurt and die in the accidents and pile-ups we see in the news.

One of them was a former student of mine at Baylor, who died in an accident in Pennsylvania-- a talented young man who was at the start of his career and family life.  It is a deeply sad thing, and replicated over and over.  

I suppose that I will look at the news, and the ice, differently now.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Haiku Friday: Love and Sweaters

Happy Valentines Day!  

You know what you might not want to give that special someone this year?  One of the US Olympic Team sweaters, worn during the opening ceremonies.  They seem to be inspired by the "horrifying Christmas sweater" trend, cross-bred with hyper-patriotism.

This week, I give everyone license to haiku about sweaters or love (of any variety).  

Here is mine:

They all looks so fit!
(Except the curlers).  But the
Sweaters flatter none...

Now you get to go!  Use the 5/7/5 syllable formula.  And if Sally and Geoff have fully reconciled... there might be a PG-13 rating.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Battleship turns

Earlier this week, I got to speak twice at an excellent symposium put on at Harvard Law School by the Harvard Journal on Legislation.  The topic was narcotics law, and it was (as always) a learning experience as much as anything.  

There was was one fascinating point of consensus among those there:  That this is a unique moment for change in this field.  There is a growing bipartisan consensus that we need to fix our approach to narcotics law, which has been erratic, unfair, racially disparate, expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.  There is a long arc towards justice, and gravity is pulling us now towards something more reasonable.

Don't believe me about growing consensus?  Check out this piece in the conservative National Review,   or another great column in the Wall Street Journal.

The question now becomes what "something more reasonable" will be.  Legalization?  Lower sentences?  Better targeting?  Something else?

What do you think? 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Luge Realities

So, this is what it looks like to ride the Sochi Luge track... if you could, would you do it?  (I would).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The Best of the Winter Olympics!

What are you loving so far?

When I watch the moguls skiers, it makes my knees hurt.  Really.  That is some kind of torture-sport! 

Short-track speedskating is another favorite of mine-- a bunch of guys barreling around the track and then BANG it is done!  I can't quite figure out the tactics on that one, because sometimes it seems like they are barely moving...

Meanwhile, my favorite thus far is the biathlon.  Skiing and shooting guns at stuff is just the most wicked awesome sport ever.  I'm pretty sure, too, that there has to be some kind of recreational biathlon league around Minneapolis, and perhaps I can start doing it myself...

Monday, February 10, 2014


Thank you, NY Times!

From today's lead editorial in the New York Times:

The founders understood very well that there could be miscarriages of justice even under the rule of law. By allowing the president to commute unjust sentences or pardon deserving petitioners who had served their time, they sought to ensure that the workings of the courts could be tempered with mercy.

The Justice Department’s sudden interest in the clemency problem is good news, but asking defense lawyers for help is a haphazard approach. What’s needed is wholesale reform of the department’s pardon office, which has proved itself ineffective and incompetent, partly because the current process relies on the department to evaluate its own work.

One sound idea is to create a clemency review panel outside the Justice Department, perhaps as a part of the executive office. Mr. Obama could form an advisory board, or reconfigure the pardon office to include defense lawyers, sociologists and other experts who would bring a broader perspective to the issue. The goal would be to give the president unbiased information that would enable him to exercise fully this important aspect of executive power.

And what I wrote last week on MSNBC:

The framers created the pardon power to offset congressional excesses, and that is exactly how this president, unlike former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, is using it. 


Rationally, generating more clemency petitions only makes sense if this administration is prepared to find a way to analyze and ultimately grant more petitions. If that is part of the plan – and it might be – Cole did not mention it in his speech.

There are good options for increasing the size of the pipe, and producing more good outcomes rather than just more petitions.

Critics hailing from such diverse corners as the Heritage Foundation and the American Constitution Society have called for wide-ranging reform of the pardon process. This might be the time to implement significant changes, such as removing many levels of review and giving the person or committee charged with making recommendations on clemency much more frequent and direct access to the president.


I can't decide!

[Yeah, I don't know why this photo of Joe Biden taken from the Onion might fit this post, but I just wanted to run it, because I love it so much]

There were so many great winter haikus on Friday-- check them all out here.  Some are sensual, some are sensible, and it sounds like even Sally and Geoffrey are in good moods about it.

Which did you like the best?

Sunday, February 09, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Today's sermon

I'm giving the sermon today at 10 am at First Covenant Church here in Minneapolis, which is one of my favorite places.  It has a warm soul.

The text is Psalm 8:

1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The poetry is beautiful, and the message complex.  It is often sung, but tomorrow it will be read.  

When I first read this, with the placement of us below the angels, and among these things of beauty, I thought this:  The gravity of faith pulls us always towards humility.  

Saturday, February 08, 2014


Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, P.S. Ruckman...

So, I very much liked the Lego Movie, though I doubt I will be able to get this "Everything Is Awesome" song out of my head for the next year.

I did notice something, though... the "Good Cop" character's look appears to be based entirely on Pardon Power blogger P.S. Ruckman.  Here, check it out for yourself:

Friday, February 07, 2014


Haiku Friday: Will Winter Ever End????

I'm pretty sure that I don't have to explain this one to anybody outside of Anchorage, Alaska (apparently the only place in the US that isn't having a harsh winter).

Let's haiku about this winter:  The snow, the cold, the driving, the need to augment your car's heater, etc....

Here, I will go first:

It's below zero!
Just like every other day...
I may just drive south.

Actually, I'm kind of enjoying it, most of the time.  It is beautiful, and there is lots to do on the snow and ice... but couldn't we do that at 20 degrees rather than -20?

Thursday, February 06, 2014


Any other Gerald Ford fans out there?

Check out this great new piece from Abby Rapoport...


Political Mayhem Thursday: Russian hospitality!

As I've written before, Sochi seems like a less-than-great choice for the Winter Olympics, and only in part because it is semi-tropical.  

Journalists checking in have reported some unusual issues with their accommodations, including the note from one that "My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, "do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous."  Uh oh.

The bathroom sign above offers some pretty sensible instructions-- like "don't go fishing in the toilet," but I'm baffled by what that guy in the bottom right-hand picture is up to...

Is it just me, or does it seem a little fishy that a place like Sochi got the games in the first place.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Razor Caption contest!

This is IPLawGuy at his birthday yesterday.  Put your caption in the the comments section...

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Patient Bear

This character, found in a child's placemat drawing in a local pizzeria, remains one of my favorites.  I often think of, and try to emulate, patient bear...

Monday, February 03, 2014


Now I am hungry...

...Just from reading the haikus about food.  So good!  Like this, from Lily of the Valley:

I am the sovereign
Of my form, Gelato, You
Shall not claim my will.

I can recline here
You clutched to my bosom on
Soft settee,silver

Spoon poised above tub.
Goal: to be sylph,wood nymph, live
On air. Fool! Surrender.

And this, from Renee:

Scraps of bread nothings,
Beaten eggs convocation with
Brown sugar,cinnamon

To elevate our
Mother to Heroine
Status. We ate it with cream
Burnt our tongues with bliss.

Oh, and did anyone else notice that Geoffrey and Sally are getting cozy again?

Sunday, February 02, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The brooding period

This is going to be a big week:  Tomorrow I will be presenting a mid-day reflection at St. Thomas with Susan Stabile on confession (info here), and then a week from today I am giving the sermon at First Covenant church here in Minneapolis in the morning, then heading off to Boston in the afternoon (to give two talks at a Harvard Law symposium on narcotics legislation).  

The sermon is on Psalm 8.  The people who know me are laughing to themselves a little right now-- they know that I never venture far from the gospels, and that the Old Testament is... well, I know as much about that as I do about luge.  Still, I look forward to the challenge, and know that the congregation there is loving and forgiving as might be necessary.

What that means is that I will spend some time lying on my couch this week.  Hulitt Gloer taught me how to write a sermon, and one thing he taught me was the importance of a "brooding period"-- that time where you think through the meaning of the scripture without writing.  I've found that it is important not just for preaching, but other presentations and writing as well.  The mind needs to work things out without a pen in your hand or your laptop open; I learned this late in life.

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Now up on MSNBC!

Hey!  My piece on clemency is now up on the front page of MSNBC-- check it out here.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?