Friday, October 31, 2014


Haiku Friday: Halloween!

It's halloween!  How great to have it on a Friday, too-- for a lot of people, especially the smaller ones, it is a greg thing not to have it on a school night.

Let's haiku about Halloween.  Here is a non-exclusive list of possible topics:

1)  Best costumes ever
2)  Scariest Halloween memory
3)  Wardrobe malfunctions
4)  Best and worst things to get in your bag
5)  Halloween at college
6)  What not to wear (on Halloween)

Here, I will go first:

Paper mache heads
A Charlie Brown masterpiece
Dad's Halloween art!

Now it is your turn!  Just make the first line 5 syllables, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third...

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: America after the election

One of two things will happen in the election next week:  Either Republicans will capture the Senate, or they won't.

I would submit that it doesn't matter much which of these two things happen.  Sure, it may start an open battle in the Republican party for control of the group, and it might also push President Obama towards more active administrative actions to achieve policy goals, bypassing Congress.

For the most part, though, it will look much like today.  No real, meaningful legislation will get through to become a law.  There will be a lot of blaming and absurd claims.  And, in 2016, we will probably end up with a Democratic Senate again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Halloween is coming...

And I'm willing to take suggestions on my costume.  That's me as Box-Head Guy, above.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Washington v. Dallas

I don't often watch pro football, but I watched some of the game last night between Washington and Dallas.  (Washington won 20-17) I was left with a lot of questions:

1)  So if a guy has the ball in his own end zone and fumbles, his team gets the ball on their 20?  That doesn't make much sense-- it provides an incentive to fumble.

2)  Wait a minute!  When did Colt McCoy start playing?  What happened to RG3 and that guy from Michigan State?

3)  Do pro teams usually fumble so much?  It seemed like a pretty regular occurrence...

Monday, October 27, 2014


Police Haiku!

Lots of great entries last week!  Personally, I loved the Waco Farmer's entry:

Grew up in LA
Call 1-Adam-12, Code 3
Love my thin blue line

And the Medievalist!

Drinking Sprite all night,
I am stone cold sober, sir,
Those people are drunk.

Oh, and Renee!  Brilliant as usual...

Driving Barbie Cox home
Speeding of course,cop blew whistle.Barbie said,"Gun it,Renée !!!

So I gunned it and
The police didn't give chase.
How disappointing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Sunday Reflection: Known

I was raking leaves yesterday... hundreds of thousands of leaves.

I stopped in the late afternoon light and looked at them.  It occurred to me that rarity is not what makes something beautiful.  

More important than rarity is that something is seen and known.

And we, each of us, are known.  We are seen.  We are loved.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014


What not to eat

Good advice!

Friday, October 24, 2014


Haiku Friday: Cops!

This week I got a mysterious package in the mail from Santa Cruz.  I know for some people they might think "My marijuana finally came!', but not me.  Inside was a beautiful book (available on Amazon) called Police Blotter Haiku, sent by the author Jim Jones.  It is awesome.  He also has a blog on the same subject, which you can see here.

As you might have already guessed, his haiku are ripped from the pages of actual police logs, which are ofter re-printed in small town newspaper.  For example:

Her deceased husband
rose from the grave to apply
for a Sears account.

So, let's take a page from Mr. Jones, and haiku about crime and cops and all that goes with it.  Here, I will go first:

Confusing bank note:
"Give money or I will die!"
Teller:  "Go ahead!"

Now it is your turn!  Have some fun with it (we aren't picky) and use the familiar 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable recipe...

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Protests that don't make sense

Pictured at right is a protest yesterday in Atlanta.  In order to draw attention to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters blocked I-75.

Ferguson raises some important social issues that continue to plague our country, and the continuing discussion of militarized police is worthwhile (and may be productive).  However, this kind of protest is doing nothing to change hearts and minds.  It hurts a big bunch of innocent people, who are just going to be mad when they find out why they had to sit on a closed freeway.  It does nothing to advance the cause, and actually moves the ball backwards in terms of empathy for the victims of police violence.  Let's face it-- after sitting in traffic for two hours, some of the people stuck in their cars (black and white) were probably hoping for a little police violence.

Often, we confuse expression of anger with social justice advocacy.  Both have their place.  This kind of thing fails on both counts, though.  As an expression of anger, it isn't focused on the people who caused a problem-- it mostly going to inconvenience and enrage working people trying to get somewhere.  As social justice advocacy, it makes no statement whatsoever about the real issue, and has no chance to change anyone's mind.  That's just not how people work.

Too often, good causes have been hindered by bad tactics.  What were they trying to gain by this?  What was the goal?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Legal Notes from all over (well, two places...)

1) In Waco, a capital murder jury began deliberating on Monday after several days of testimony in the re-trial of a case that first resulted in a conviction nearly three decades ago. According to Waco Trib reporter Tommy Witherspoon (in a tweet), the jury sent out a question to the judge: "How many jurors does it take to reach a unanimous verdict?" Sigh.

Judge Matt Johnson informed them that it would take all of them to make a unanimous decision...

2)   Coming up later this week (on Friday), I will be speaking at a great white collar crime symposium at Wayne State in Detroit, convened by Judge Avern Cohn.  You can see the lineup for that one here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Arguing about Islam

I was fascinated by the mini-furor in Waco over an opinion piece in the Baylor student newspaper by a junior named Jeffrey Swindoll.  You can read the whole thing here.  Here is part of his argument:

There are a lot of problems with the national discussion about the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL), terrorism, and Islam as a whole. The majority of those problems come from non-Muslims that are bending over backwards to defend Islam without a leg to stand on. Conversations about Islam among non-Muslims is poisoned with non-factual arguments and liberal dreams, void of reality. 

He then goes on to quote the Koran's seeming exhortations to violence:

“Fight with them until there is no more unbelief.” (Quran 8:39)
“Kill [infidels] wherever you find them… [disbelief] is worse…” (Quran 2:191)

“Strike off the heads of those who disbelieve.” (Quran 8:12)

Before unfortunately veering off into some anti-Obama rants , he makes this point:

A survey done by Pew Research Center done in 2013 reveals that the majority of Muslims in the world believe in a literal, word-for-word interpretation of the Quran. Specifically in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, literal interpretation is above 90 percent on average. Not all Muslims believe in a one-dimensional view of the Quran, but, according to Pew Research Center, the majority of them do. In other words, a majority of Muslims stand by those horrific verses you just read. 

I'm intrigued by his argument, though I disagree with much of it (including the idea that "political correctness" is a liberal thing-- I noted a pervasive conservative political correctness when I lived in Waco).

I've never understood the statement that Islam is a "religion of peace."  No religion seems to have done a very good job of promoting peace, after all, and the most frequent conflicts seem to occur in those areas where religion is most significant in political life.

Is this a discussion we should be having more broadly, possibly about both Islam and Christianity?

Monday, October 20, 2014



So many good haiku about texting... see them all here!  But my dad really got real on this:

IvfAm sen#5ding
U th%/ss text meessAgé/>
biy mi*(celoPHone}

And that mysterious-yet-familiar Dutchess of Hennepin:

She sings the body
Electronic. All day long.
She texts,facebooks,tweets.

All alone. She is
Alice in Cyberland.Looks
For a safe life There.

And look!  Sally and Geoff are back!

Mustang's Former Sally said...Osler--Geoff sucks!

I begged and pleaded
Pissed and moaned for love text from
Geoff. Got: "Buh Bye Now!"

Geoffrey Mustang Boy said...
In reality
I texted was: "Free Love: Let's
Be Inclusive, Sal!"

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Sunday Reflection: A Gift

A few years ago, I got a box in the mail from one of my friends, Joy.  She lived in Dallas at the time, and worked for a big firm there.  She had been my student at Baylor, and a wonderful one.  Later, when I started to work on same-sex marriage issues, she told me the truth about what it had been like to be gay at Baylor Law.

When she was my student, she came into my office one day and said, "Osler, your shoes have got to go!" She absolutely hated the boat shoes I had worn most of the time I was teaching.  Next came a flurry of emails full of links to shoes I should buy, ranging from odd to beautiful.

So… I shouldn't have been surprised when I opened the box and found a pair of amazing shoes.  I put them on immediately.

Since then, I have worn them to the White House four times.  I have worn them to give lectures at Harvard, Stanford, NYU, and UCLA.  They have run for planes in a dozen cities.  They came with me to Italy, where I wore them every day. They held me up as I gave sermons in Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin,  and Alaska.  They were there when I gave good lectures, and some bad ones, too.  They have appeared on CNN, ESPN, Al Jazeera, the BBC, National Geographic and MSNBC.  I wore them on the Appalachian Trail, and on the streets of New York.  I am wearing them now.

And every time, they remind me of what it means to have a friend, who sometimes knows exactly what you need.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Cell phones: Not always so great.

Yesterday, I got an important call from someone with an update from DC that went like this:

Caller:  I've got great news!
Me:  Wonderful!  What is it?
Caller:  Squeek!  Grobble grobble grobble {line goes dead}

The most likely outcome here is that the caller was mugged by the Hamburglar from McDonaldland, who says "grobble grobble grobble" and has some issues:

Less likely is the possibility of phone problems, but still-- should either be happening in the year 2014? Aren't we better than that?

Actually, the Hamburglar isn't nearly as scary as this spokes-clown:

Friday, October 17, 2014


Haiku Friday: Texting!

Yeah, you text.  So does everyone else, pretty much (except my parents).  It is a part of our day, and all around us.  Yet, the etiquette of it is still developing.

Let's haiku about that today-- good texts, bad ones, autocorrects, whatever!  I will go first:

My thick thumbs often
Change "love" to "live," I press send…
But isn't it just true?

Now it is your turn… just make it 5 syllables, then 7, then 5, and don't worry about it too much!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Mercy for Robert Shipp

One of the great joys of my work lately has been working with my students on clemency petitions.  One of my wonderful students, Vince Gmerek, prepared an excellent petition for a deserving client named Robert Shipp. 

Mr. Shipp has another great advocate in his corner:  his sister, Veda Ajamu.  She has started a petition on We The People, and here is how she described the case:

In 1993, at the age of 20, Robert Shipp was indicted in a crack conspiracy. In 1994, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He was involved in the conspiracy for 5 months. This was Robert’s first drug offense. The Judge that sentenced Robert repeatedly objected to the sentence that he was forced to give Robert based on the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines. A Clemency application was filed for Robert, July 2013. has ranked Robert #12 among the top 25 prisoners nationwide deserving immediate freedom. Robert has received over 142,800 signatures on his petition. Robert has been in prison 21 years now. He does not deserve to die in prison for 5 months involvement in a nonviolent drug conspiracy at 20 years old.

I'd urge you to go over to We The People and sign Robert's petition.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


It's Not Bragging If It's True!

St. Thomas law school got some great news last week-- according to the Princeton Review, we are #4 in the nation for quality of life, and #8 for best professors.  Here is part of what students had to say:

Everyone here—not just the deans, professors, and admissions and registrar staff, but even the custodians, cafeteria employees, and the security personnel—strive to create a community in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity,

I am in the right place. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


What a Game!!!!

I was only watching from afar, but the TCU-Baylor game on Saturday was amazing-- Baylor pulled out a win in the last second, after being 24 points down in the 4th quarter.  I almost turned off the TV with about 11 minutes left, and I'm really glad that I didn't!

Meanwhile, though, it is hard not to worry about the state of college football, and football in general.  I wrote already about the situation in Sayresville, New Jersey, and now things are coming out about the Florida State program that are truly disheartening.  A lengthy New York Times article three days ago titled At Florida State, Football Clouds Justice told the sad story of a school that has lost its way. 

Football success, like any form of power, can be corrupting.  No school should put football first.  It has proven to be a very difficult (but possible) thing to be great at football and retain an identity separate from that, and the schools which have achieved that-- ie, Stanford and Notre Dame-- tend to have tremendous resources at their disposal.  Like wealth and beauty, success in a sport like football carries with it a moral hazard that must be recognized and averted with the great effort that restraint so often requires.

Monday, October 13, 2014



17 great haiku last week-- check them out here!  I think people loved this one from Wee Dram Geordie:

African cabbie
Physiognomy finely
Molded.Honey voice.Where is he from?
Ask it. Ask it. I

Force myself to wait.---
Ethiopian..Thank God.
I shake his hand strong.

What must it be to
Be sick, one to
hold you..Forgive me.

And this from Antonia:

You can not control It
All,Carlo,my mio. Soon
The Ender of Things

Will catch you dreaming,
Tenderskin,and place a wen
The shape of an isle

On your latte chest.
Or an obstacle in your
Inner home and it

Will be travel time
Again as it was once,when
You were fresh from Heaven

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The Artist

Saturday, October 11, 2014


The Most Disturbing Football Story Yet

Football season has ended in Sayreville, New Jersey, after a horrifying hazing ritual was uncovered.  In short, here is what happened, according to

It would start with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off.

In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.

How in the world did this kind of sexual assault become part of a kids' football program?  How does that even happen?  And how did it stay secret for even one day?

Friday, October 10, 2014


Haiku Friday: Illness

I'm fascinated by the way people respond to the idea of an epidemic.  Not every disease is part of an epidemic, though, and not every illness is serious.  

Let's haiku about sicknesses today-- serious, not serious, or just the fear of illness.  Here, I will go first:

Old red flannel shirt
It is my "sickey boy shirt."
Works every time!

Now, you go!  It can be about you or someone else, serious or not… just make the first line five syllables, seven for the second, and five for the third.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: Ebola

Is it just me, or is there something super-creepy about the picture of the Ebola virus, above, which seems to be everywhere of late?

It might just be that it is a symbol of the trouble it brings:  twisted, alien, mysterious.  Now, though, it is a reality in our nation.  I went to Texas last week, and the check-in person in Minneapolis said "Texas! That's America's Liberia!"  And things are getting a little weird in Texas as people in and around Dallas are starting to worry a little more than they have.

What should our political leaders do?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Rolling Stone

So… it has been quite a week!  On Saturday I caught a shark, today I have a key meeting on clemency here in Washington, and yesterday I got to see a great profile that Andrea Jones wrote for Rolling Stone.

I really do like what she wrote-- both about me and (more importantly) about the people like Weldon Angelos who are serving unfair sentences.  There is one part that I'm glad she put in; it was something I have only said once, and that was to her as we sat in the offices of the Brennan Center last summer:

Widely enacted in the Eighties and Nineties amid rising crime and racially coded political fearmongering, mandatory penalties — like minimum sentences triggered by drug weight, automatic sentencing enhancements, and three-strikes laws — have flooded state and federal prisons with nonviolent offenders. Intended to ensure uniform discipline, these policies simply shifted discretion to prosecutors. Judges lost latitude to tailor sanctions based on whether someone was a kingpin or courier, for example, while Osler says, prosecutors gained "a big hammer. The easy way of doing things is to threaten people with a lot of time, and then plead them out," he says. "But easy and justice don't go together very well."

I really do believe this-- that justice done well is not easy.  It's expensive and hard.

Anyways, my only regret is that I didn't suggest that they run this photo with the story:

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


I caught a fish!

Last weekend down in Port Aransas, I caught a shark.  That's not something I ever thought would happen… thanks for the plan, Henry Wright!

Monday, October 06, 2014



Nice haiku last Friday.  But Amy, what did you mean with this:

Mine was named Teddy
Security and comfort
Just a brown stuffed bear

"Just?"  Hey, a stuffed brown bear can be a great thing!

Then we had this intriguing and fun entry from CTL:

Congressional "fix"
For Secret Service problem:
Bears on the North Lawn?

Some like it hot, some
Like it cold, but all bears like
Goldilocks porridge.

With rise of ISIS,
Bears no longer top threat to
Domestic safety.

Bears go to Texas,
Win football game by fifty,
Best mascot by more.

Murderous panda
Walks into a restaurant
Then eats chutes and leaves

And we can't ignore the genius of the Duchess, if only for giving us the new word "bearfall":

Plump derriere poised
Over steaming earth,she saw
The bear coming,raised

Her gun,still squatting,
She shot true and fast,heartbeat
Rabbity. Bearfall.

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Sunday Reflection: The Owl and the Crows

Two years ago, we did the Trial of Jesus at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.  It was a remarkable experience, but there was one moment I have been pondering ever since.

Walking across the campus, I saw a crowd standing under an old tree.  They were all looking up into the tree, so I did too.  An owl was sitting on a branch.  That, in itself, was remarkable.  It's rare to see an owl-- and I have to think it is rarer still to see one near downtown Pasadena.  What people were watching, though, was this:  Two crows were attacking the owl, trying to knock it off of it's perch.  They would fly and dive at him, talons out, over and over.  The stolid owl seemed to ignore them, just turning his head to the side now and then and clutching the branch.

A seminarian got a good laugh when he said "The birth of a thousand sermons!"

It seemed right-- that this scene in the middle of the campus of the world's largest evangelical seminary would have readily available meaning as religious metaphor.  But, for two years I struggled to find it.

If we are the owl, who are the crows?  Is it a lesson on steadfastness?

Only a week ago, I realized a better story.  Maybe, just maybe, the owl isn't the hero, the valiant and steadfast Christian.  Maybe that owl is the complacent Christian, clinging to the same branch he always has, comfortably.  The crows, in turn… might they be the troubling directives of Christ, that so often try to knock us off of our perch and our easy confidence?  Maybe...

Saturday, October 04, 2014


Beach Day!

Hello, Texas!  I'm down at Port Aransas this weekend, fishing with Henry Wright and the guys... rest assured, fun will be had.


Friday, October 03, 2014


Haiku Friday: Bears!

This map from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, showing the location of bear attacks in Minnesota, gave me the idea that we haiku about bears this week.  We'll construe the topic broadly:  You can discuss Polar bears, Koala bears, Baylor bears, whatever!

Here, I'll go first:

I think bears' real names
Are things like "Ggrrrffsss"
Things a bear can say!

Now, you go!  Have some fun, and have the first line be about 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third...

Oh, and don't forget pandas!

Thursday, October 02, 2014


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Secret Service

A few weeks ago, with some time on my hands (apparently), I watched the entirety of a really terrible movie called "Olympus Has Fallen."  The plot revolves around a coordinated attack on the White House by North Korea, involving a stolen Lockheed AC-130 gunship, some guys in garbage trucks, and suicide bombers.  Even with all of that (and some turncoats on the inside), they don't succeed in getting what they want.

It turns out, a very similar result was obtained last week by one guy with a knife.  The attacker, Omar Gonzalez, just ran across the lawn and through the unlocked front door.  The alarm system was turned off because it made too much noise.

Apparently, the main deterrent in such events is supposed to be the release of some vicious dogs, but that didn't happen.  Let's face it-- that never worked for C. Montgomery Burns on the The Simpsons, either.

Should the director of the Secret Service have been fired for this lapse (as she was, yesterday)?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


The Writing Binge

I'm kind of on a writing bender right now-- lots of academic stuff, mostly.  Next week, I have a piece that will come out in the Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy on the uses of prosecutorial discretion.  Another (on the use of forfeiture to combat narcotics) is being edited now for the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

Beyond that, the piece Rachel Barkow and I did for the University of Chicago Law Review on clemency reform can be downloaded from SSRN.  That one got a kind mention in a New York Times staff editorial, which supported our idea.

Then, just yesterday, my forthcoming piece for the Rutgers Law Review-- "1986: Crack, AIDS, and C. Everett Koop"-- came out on SSRN (and Doug Berman found it intriguing, at least!).

Of course, earlier this summer my piece with Judge Mark Bennett on mass incarceration came out, and I seem to get a lot of mail about that one…

I like writing.  Sometimes I focus on short-form (op-eds) work, and other times I go on a little binge like this of longer-form pieces.  It all fits together, though-- they are connected by the idea that we need to bring narcotics sentences in line with problem-solving.

I'd welcome any thoughts you might have on these…

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