Saturday, May 31, 2014


A Busy Year!

First off-- if you can make it, please come to here my sermon tomorrow!  8 and 10 am at St. Stephens Episcopal Church at 50th and Wooddale in Edina.  The gist of what I hope to say is in a HuffPost piece that went up yesterday.

Next, I spent much of the week compiling my annual report for work.  It's been a busy year!  Here is the overview section:

Scholarship:  During this year, I published or placed nine unique pieces of  long-form scholarship. Published articles with the Stanford Law and Policy Review and the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, and two book chapters with Ashgate Press.  Placed forthcoming articles with the University of Chicago Law Review, the Harvard Journal on Legislation, the Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy, the Rutgers Law Review, and the DePaul Journal for Social Justice.

Teaching:  Taught 5 classes/13 Credits.  Supervised seven student papers, and advised several students on interviews and job opportunities. 

Short-Form Writing:  33 published pieces, appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, Detroit News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune,,, Huffington Post, and Waco Tribune-Herald.

Public Speaking:  28 major presentations in 12 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Texas), including academic presentations at Harvard (twice), Stanford (twice), the University of Chicago, NYU, UCLA, William and Mary, and Rutgers.  Also gave five sermons and performed the Trial of Jesus four times.

Media:  Appeared in segments within my area of expertise for National Public Radio (twice), Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, the National Geographic Channel, Alaska Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, and several local media outlets.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Haiku Friday: Fascinating People

I've been thinking about some of my law school classmates, who were fascinating then, and fascinating now.  Some people just lead interesting lives.  Let's haiku about them today.

Here is mine:

Asked that question
That made us all quiet, fast
A strong voice, and calm.

Now, it is your turn!  Just make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and have some fun with it!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Obama Doctrine

In a commencement address at West Point, President Obama described a foreign/military policy based on "might doing right."  Here is how CNN described it:

"I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," he said, referring to a tenet of conservative ideology.  But what makes us exceptional is not flouting international norms and the rule of law; it's our willingness to affirm them through our actions," Obama said in arguing that true leadership involves not only having the world's most powerful military, but in doing the right thing.
"America must always lead on the world stage," Obama said, and the military "always will be the backbone of that leadership," but U.S. military action "cannot be the only -- or even primary -- component of our leadership in every instance."

In a direct jab at his detractors, the President said those "who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away, are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics."

I'm not totally sure what this means, other than two things:

1)  Some commitment to maintaining a strong military force, and
2)  Using a diplomacy-first foreign policy.

Is that meaningful?  And is it any different than what the last several presidents have said?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Even for Texas, That's some rough politics...

I moved to Texas in a crazy election year, 2000-- a year in which the local Republican State Rep candidate in Waco got in a fistfight with the local Republican Party chair-- and have been fascinated with the politics there ever since.  This year, despite the near-disappearance of the Democratic Party, has been just as spicy and awful as ever.

Especially unpleasant was the race for Lieutenant Governor, which is a relatively important position in Texas.  Incumbent David Dewhurst was unsuccessful in defending his seat from Houston talk radio host Dan Patrick (NOT the guy from ESPN...), who has been attacking him from the far right.  Veteran Waco Trib editor Bill Whitaker recently called that contest "the nastiest lieutenant governor’s race I’ve seen in nearly 35 years in the business."  Among other things, Dewhurst's allies have dredged up and made public Patrick's mental health records and the ad included above.  And that's from the incumbent!

Given that Dewhurst and Patrick have nearly identical political beliefs, where does this toxic enmity come from? 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


On Sunday, I preach again...

This Sunday, June 1st, the Sunday before Pentecost, I get to preach for the first time in my home church, St. Stephens in Edina.  Pictured above is Minnehaha Creek running behind and around the back of the church, with haiku-champion Renee wading in the water.  

I love having this opportunity, and fear it a little, too.  I hope that many of my friends will come on that morning-- 8 or 10 am, at the corner of 50th and Wooddale.

As some of you know, I always preach from the gospel lesson, and the lesson for that morning is John 17:1-11:

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. "

Of all that, here is the part that grabs me:  "And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world…"  What a thing, to be left!   We all know that feeling, don't we?

Monday, May 26, 2014


On Summer...

Nothing says summer like this, form Christine (who is from where I am from):

Cool, crisp evening
fireflies floating amid
twilight like stars.

And then there was this, from Renee:

Veranda coffee
Reunion with the Sea in
Thin places.Silence

That wrests the stealing
Machines from my grip and grants
Eternal Heart to heart.

I walk in market
With no walls and see all kinds...
Communion folk.Plums.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Sunday Reflection: In the garden

I know people, like my mother, who are wonderful gardeners.  They have a talent for choosing plants to go here or there, the way my father plays with color and shape when he paints.

Then there are the rest of us.  I plant things, and sometimes they come up and sometimes they don't.  Often, my plants languish, never quite getting to the point where they look like the picture on the seed package.  In Texas, I tried every year to get something to come up right-- tomatoes, beans, carrots-- and almost always failed.  I produced one tiny green tomato that was eaten by a small creature.

Every year, I felt a profound sense of disappointment.  I mean that in the truest sense, that the disappointment was profound, because it was a deep and meaningful disappointment.  It was a reminder each year that I did not control what happens in the dirt, that sometimes I fail, and that the amount I need to learn is much greater than what I know.  More than anything, gardening for someone like me is humbling, and that is a good thing.

I will try again this year and plant some things in pots and in the yard.  Some will come up and others won't.  I will celebrate the ones that grow, and remain humbled by the rest.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


This is the time of year with the best light:  Gentle, not yet fierce, pouring out over the now-warm evening.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Haiku Friday: Your Best Hope for Summer

Even here in Minnesota, we can tell that summer is coming.  And that is a wonderful thing.

Let's haiku about what you hope for this summer-- an event, a visit with a friend, a favorite food, a trip, maybe even something that is impossible.  

Here is mine:

Garden ambition,
I love the tender shoots, and then
To the round and ripe.

Now you get to haiku!  Put 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third...

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The 2014 elections

Oh, midterms!  It's like the junior-varsity of national elections, where there is no presidential vote, and it doesn't seem to matter very much.  Which, of course, is wrong-- because it does matter, and it will this year. 

The popular wisdom is that the Republicans will gain seats in the House and the Senate, and may flip the Senate to their side.  That seems likely to me, at this point.  Democrats have won in presidential years the last two cycles because young people turn out to vote when they can choose a president... not so much in the midterms.

So here is my question:  Will YOU vote in the midterm?  And do you think that election will matter?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Meanest sign ever?

Swiped from my friend Jon… but they put a similar sign at the end of Colonial Rd. after we moved there when I was 5 or 6.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The Worst Car Ever

Many years ago, on a trip to Europe, I got the chance to take a spin in a Trabant, the East German car that has often been called the worst ever.  It had an 18-horse two-stroke engine, handled like a child-built soapbox car, and belched smoke out of the tailpipe.  I was fascinated!

The beauty of the Trabant was its simplicity-- it could be easily repaired and manufactured cheaply. 

Every once in a while, my dad floats his idea for a "Forever Car," which would be very simple and built of easily replaceable components so it could last forever.  I kind of like the idea, actually.  The problem, of course, is that complex smog-control and safety systems required (properly) by American law make such simplicity very hard to achieve.  Will the Trabant be the closest we get?

Monday, May 19, 2014


Congratulations and Congratulations, Ang!

First, I loved your haiku about an awkward moment:

Horror of horrors!
Passed a paper to my crush,
and passed gas, as well.

Second, and WAY more importantly, Ang  got her Ph.D. and a great job out West.  I love it when people who come through here do well, and they very often do!  The best part is that they don't move away from the Razor...

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Does Good Come From the Person or the Job?

At the Stanford Symposium on Friday, the students had arranged an incredibly provocative lunchtime debate on the proposition "Good people should not become prosecutors."  The idea comes from the writings of Georgetown Law Prof Paul Butler, who argued in support of the idea and has written about it extensively.

One of the problems, of course, is that this question rests on the fiction (promoted by movies and television) that the world is divided into good and evil people.  In reality, we all do good and bad things, in different measure and effect.  The same way almost no one remembers themselves as being particularly popular in high school, hardly anyone considers themselves "evil."

As I talked about later in the day, I disagree with the proposition even with that caveat.  I do think good people (even some of the best) choose to be prosecutors, and I often encourage my own students to make that choice.

I do that because I think it is good for them and good for the world.  Prosecutors do have a lot of discretion, and some misuse it.  But the job will not disappear if good people avoid it.  It will just lack their engagement with principle and meaning.

Within Christianity, we sometimes talk about vocation.  I do think that some people have the vocation of prosecutor.  It isn't an easy vocation, either, because to do it right is emotionally engaging and wearying.  It is all tragedy.  There is no victory when you win a case, no sense of joy.  Still… we need the good people to do it, and hope that doing it well will make all of us better.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


The Scramble Band

I had a great time at the symposium yesterday at Stanford-- I did my usual ranting thing while waving my hands over my head, but the other speakers seemed very thoughtful and well-read.  

The campus is really lovely, and HUGE-- the biggest contiguous campus in the United States.  In the distance this afternoon, I heard the marching band, or some part of it, off in the distance.  The Stanford band is a little... unusual.  Aside from their famous role in a certain football game,  the Stanford band is also one of the few "Scramble Bands" in the country-- which apparently means  that they run around and insult the other team rather than actually marching.  It IS entertaining!   

Other schools with this type of band include Rice, Harvard, Villanova, and both of my own alma maters, William and Mary and Yale.  Of them, Yale may be the most fun:

And why is it so oddly satisfying when the traditional baton-twirler shows up out of nowhere at about 2:20?

Friday, May 16, 2014


Haiku Friday: Faux Pas

We have all done it-- the bonehead move.  I've got several to choose from, actually.  Here is a personal favorite:

Rushing through airport,
Didn't have time to check the signs…
Well, hellllooooo, ladies!

Now you tell all (or at least as a 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable trio of lines will allow)...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Re-Segregation

Today I am off to California, getting ready to speak at this great symposium at Stanford.

On the way, though, I will be thinking about the upcoming anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the US Supreme Court, which ended the era of separate-but-(un)equal in the United States.

One of the best magazine articles I have read in a long time was Segregation Now... in the Atlantic.  It describes the re-segregation of the public schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Laid bare is the fact that race still matters in America, and we are not close to solving the problems that come with racial inequalities.  We hold out the promise of "equal opportunity," but it is too often a false promise.

One of the more shocking notes in the piece was really just an aside, noting that the sororities at the University of Alabama are still segregated.  At a school like Alabama, that still matters, and it is deeply troubling.   When I was in college at William and Mary, the fraternity IPLawGuy and I were in was integrated, but most of the others were not.  The KA's, in fact, still paraded their all-white selves around in Confederate uniforms.

Segregation in college, of course, is really about the elites.  That's what makes the story about the re-segregation of the elementary, middle, and high schools in Tuscaloosa so troubling-- it establishes a base which affects all that comes after, for nearly all of that community's residents.

Are we headed in the right or wrong direction in American race relations?


Supper Club

In this part of the world, and especially in Wisconsin, there is something called a "Supper Club." It's a restaurant and bar, really (not a private club), but a certain type of restaurant and bar that is difficult to describe.  It's usually out in the woods somewhere, it has beer, you can get there by snowmobile for much of the year, your waitress is often named "Shelly," and they have cottage cheese to die for.  That's not much of a description, I know, but if you ask people from up here what a supper club is, they will probably shrug and say "You know… a supper club."  

Places with a strong identity are like that.  Minnesota is like that.  Texas is like that.  There's some kinds of things you just can't really explain objectively.  

I found out today that some people I know here, who came to Minneapolis from Waco after I did, are moving back to Texas.  It was odd to think of that.  I do know that in the few years here, there were some things they saw and lived that can't really be described.  Probably they won't try.  How do you tell someone in Texas what Lake Harriet is?  Yeah, it's a lake made by glaciers rather than by the Corps of Engineers, but there is something more ineffable than that… beyond description.

When I was in law school, I had a brilliant classmate named Ginger Levy who was from this area.  I remember once asking her what it was like.  She talked about the city, and then said "and Lake Harriet, you get up and walk around it, and it's…"  Her voice trailed off to where I couldn't go.  I always remembered that, and think of it now when on a bright clear morning I walk or bike around that lake, and know what that "…" means, because I can see it and feel it.  Sometimes that is the only way.  For truths and tragedies, sometimes there are no words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Bad Investment!

As regular readers know, every summer I spend some time up in the Boundary Waters, on and near "The Island."  The closest town (which is 67 miles away) is Grand Marais (where I sometimes have had some issues).

I occasionally check in on that town, and found it hard not to be intrigued by one recent story in the local paper:

Michael Robert Drilling, 47, of Grand Marais pled guilty to one count of Securities fraud in U.S. District Court on Thursday, April 17. In his plea agreement, Drilling admitted to devising and executing a scheme to defraud his investment advisory clients. According to U.S. States Attorney Andrew Luger, Drilling used his company Financial Advisory Partners, LLC, to defraud several of his clients, stealing over $5.6 million of their investment funds.

According to Luger, from May 2009 to March 2014, Drilling convinced several of his clients, in Minnesota and throughout the United States, to entrust him with the management of their investment funds. Drilling told 13 of his clients he was placing their money in a larger pool of funds which could be managed more efficiently. Instead, Drilling diverted his clients’ funds for his own personal use....

Drilling worked as outfitting manager at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters...

The paper notes that he faces a maximum sentence of 5 years, which is a short stay compared to many of the people I deal with who are doing far more time for relatively minor narcotics crimes-- they certainly caused less than $5 million in damage!  

I do wonder how a guy like this gets people to invest with him.  Why does the "outfitting manager" as a canoe place seem like a good guy to trust with your nest egg?  I suspect the answer to that is kind to the investors and harsh on Drilling-- that there is a lot that the investors didn't know.

Criminal law is all tragedy, and a crime like this offers a lot of tragedies stacked up like split logs. 

Monday, May 12, 2014


It's true-- Sanford and Son rules!

... and so does Robert Johnson:

This is the big one!
I'm comin' home to Georgia!
Sanford & Son rules.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Bittersweet Commencement

I love my job here at St. Thomas Law School.  Here are some of the reasons why.

Josh wrote a remarkable paper for me, about the problems veterans returning from active duty face in the criminal justice system.  It taught me something-- a lot, really-- and other people need to read it.  Some students write things I like, some that I approve of, and once in a while I get one that I admire.  This was one of those.

Here is Charles, who was took most of my classes and worked with me in the clemency clinic.  Before law school, he was a Marine and then returned to the Red Lake reservation, where he worked as a police officer (and then the chief of police).  He was a comrade to me, in that he understood (as I do) the challenges of working on that side.  I hate to see him go, but I love thinking of the things he will do.

This is Caitlin, who came to St. Thomas from Hawaii, via Baylor undergrad.  She is one of the most engaged students I have ever had.  She was all in, both in class and in the clinic, and brought a wonderful focus, intelligence, and compassion to her work.  I will miss her.

This is Jose, who just finished my Criminal Practice class.  I loved having him in class.  He's off to work for Harlem Legal Services, and I know he is going to do great things there.

This is Debbie, who came from Ireland via India and did 10,000 good things while she was in law school.  I got a sense of how she did it when she was in my clinic last year and I observed her deft and deep intellect at work.  

Kelly wrote her major paper under my supervision, and she owned it.  She wrote, apparently in one fell swoop, a remarkable analysis of the challenges felons face in seeking work.  Importantly, crucially, her paper didn't just identify a problem, but solutions.  In class, she was a wonderful presence, and an incisive thinker.  She's got more great work to do!

Maria was in my Sentencing and Criminal Practice classes this year, and rocked them both.  When I was grading sentencing finals, I came across one answer that was just perfect-- better than my key.  It was Maria's.

Finally, here are Nicole and Ted from my clemency clinic this year.  I loved the work they did, and found each of them to be inspiring to me at one time or another.  They came into law school with remarkable skills-- and hopefully got some new tools as they go forward to exceed what we teachers might have done.

There are many others, but I am out of room for pictures...


Saturday, May 10, 2014


More from out East...

It's fascinating to send an idea out there, and see where it goes.  Sometimes, it turns out you were right, sometimes that you are wrong, and sometimes you might be right in a different way than you might have thought.

I got a lot of reactions from my New York Times piece this past Monday, and I will write about a few of them, the ones that affected me the most, tomorrow.

A separate strand, though, may have had some public impact:  First, Radley Balko over at the Washington Post had an interesting analysis, and then Scott Greenfield at the Simple Justice blog drew meaning from that reaction.

It's time now, though, to focus on grading and our graduation today-- it is always a moving and happy/sad day.

Friday, May 09, 2014


Haiku Friday: Old TV shows...

You know you want to wallow in that nostalgia one more week... so let's indulge.  Pick any old TV show you want, so long as you either loved or hated it enough to care.

Here, I will go first:

Harry Nilsson sang,
California looked great;
Tale of a good dad.

Now it is your turn!  Just make it five syllables for the first line, then seven, then five...

Thursday, May 08, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Awful? True? Both? Neither?

What do you think of what Sarah Palin has to say?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Someone wrote that...

The other night I was flipping around on the TV and came across an ad where two women are having coffee, when they decide to discuss gas.

Woman one:  I'm having a lot of gas.
Woman two:  Oh, I have just the thing!

Then the second woman goes and retrieves the product, holds it next to her face and describes it in a flat, slightly horrified voice.

The thing that struck me about this ad isn't just that it exists, but that someone wrote it.  For some guy at an ad agency, writing an ad for this medicine was his job, and this is what he did with it!  And then there were meetings, and people talked about it, and concurred.

How does that happen?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


I liked that Wookie best...

This is the best video I have seen in a long time:

Monday, May 05, 2014


There it is!

Most of my adult life, I have been reading the New York Times.  I even got it delivered all those years in Waco, where I was surprised that such a thing was possible (but, you might be surprised at the number of things that are possible in Waco).  It has always been my standard for great short-form writing, and often it is thrilling (if you are the kind of person who sometimes finds such things thrilling).

Until now, though, I had never written for them.  That changed today-- here is my first piece for the Times!


Haiku Friday is BACK!

Wow!  There were some great entries last week-- check them all out here.

I want to go back in time to the place Renee described:

Clancy's Drugstore,50th & France

One could take residence
There: 99 cent breakfast,toys,

Felt like home.You
Knew its aisles.Silver ladies
Sold what you needed

Like maiden aunts they
Helped you decide on remedies.
I bought a hat there.

IPLawGuy kept the hits coming, too.  My favorite was this one… because I very much remember going to Whitey's with him back in the day:

Whitey's Bar & Grill
Great big neon sign out front
Now high end dining.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Student-Teacher

It is coming close to graduation now, and it is hard to say good-bye to my students who are graduating. This year I will see some very special ones leave.  David Best is one of them:

Saturday, May 03, 2014


Last week, and next week, in the news!

I forgot to post this, but I had a piece up on the Huffington Post this week, titled Jesus Loves Me, But I'm Not Sure He Likes Me Very Much.  It's a little confession, really.  And I also got to talk about Pontius Pilate over at Al-Jazeera.

Coming up on Monday, I have an op-ed in the New York Times.   It's a policy piece, about the next important reform in narcotics sentencing.  I'm kind of geeked up about that-- I have always wanted to place a piece there, in part because it has been the paper I read every day for most of my adult life.  More than that, though, I am just trying to emulate one of my real heroes, Bob Darden, who genuinely changed the world by writing a piece in the Times.  If I can be even a little bit like Bob Darden, I'm doing pretty well...

Friday, May 02, 2014


Haiku Friday: Gone but beloved....

Why would anyone change the name of the iconic "Alice's Restaurant" from the Arlo Guthrie song?  I don't know, but it leads to our topic for Haiku Friday this week:  Businesses we love though they are gone.  Department stores, restaurants, gas stations, shoe stores-- take your pick.  

I can go first:

It was a real treat
To  ride the escalator
At Jacobson's, then.

Now it is your turn-- just make your haiku 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third...



Thursday, May 01, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Even Colbert Noticed!

The Colbert Report
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Colbert Report on Facebook

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