Saturday, January 31, 2015


David Corbett and the bad bad client...

I was leafing through the New York Times earlier this week and was surprised to find a story about one of my favorite Baylor students, David Corbett. (David practices law in Utah with one of my other favorite Baylor grads, Craig Pankratz).   It's a very well-done piece about one of David's former clients, which begins with this:

For David M. Corbett, a lawyer in Salt Lake City, the breaking point came when his client, a white supremacist convicted of murdering a prison officer, began threatening him, then managed to learn Mr. Corbett’s home address and mailed him an envelope of legal papers. Mr. Corbett, rattled, asked to be taken off the case.

The Utah Supreme Court agreed, but it went a big step further in an unusual ruling that added an asterisk to one of the bedrock rights of America’s legal system. The court said that the defendant, Curtis Allgier, had behaved so badly with so many court-appointed lawyers that he had forfeited his right to counsel as he appealed his murder conviction.

The client, a neo-Nazi, was one terrible person:

He had been serving a state prison sentence for burglary and forgery in June 2007 when he complained of back pain and was taken for an examination at the University of Utah. After being unshackled for a magnetic resonance imaging scan, he grabbed a gun from Stephen Anderson, the corrections officer who had been escorting him, fatally shot Officer Anderson and escaped from the hospital. He stole a car and led the police on a chase before being caught later that day at an Arby’s restaurant.

David was one of several attorneys who had represented this guy... and there was a reason for that turnover:
“NEVER will they have the honor of being in my Aryan GOD presence or having any kind of contact with me period!” he wrote, in what the court described as a series of “scathing and hostile” rebukes of his own lawyers.

So... what should we do with a person like this?  Can he be denied his right to appointed counsel because of his behavior? 

Friday, January 30, 2015


Haiku Friday: The Street Where You Grew Up...

We all grew up somewhere (or somewheres), and most of us remember it well.  What was your street like?  Let's haiku about that today.

Here, I will go first:

Colonial Road, Grosse Pointe
Narrow street and a big lake;
Glimpsing Canada.

Now it is your turn!  Make the first line 5 syllables, the second line 7, and the third 5, and have some fun with it!

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Vaccinations

Since a measles outbreak at Disneyland, a worthwhile national debate has begun about childhood vaccinations-- and what to do about those people who don't have their kids vaccinated.

Apparently, there has been a movement against vaccinations in some quarters, based on the belief that they cause other problems, like autism.  Those who make these claims often come off as a little crazy, and the great majority of doctors are true believers in the need to vaccinate children.

Apparently, there is a real risk of diseases like measles spreading if the anti-vaccination movement grows… even to children who were vaccinated.  That is because the vaccine doesn't work in some small percentage of cases, and if thousands are exposed, then some people were vaccinated (and a lot more who weren't) will catch a highly contagious disease like the measles.

So, here is the question:  Should the government do something?  If so, what?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Because I am a sucker for people dancing in school hallways...

This is from A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas:

Still, it's hard to beat the French at this game:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The Huckabee Conundrum

A few days ago, the Marshall Project's Ken Armstrong wrote a great piece about clemency titled The Politics of Mercy.  Among the revelations there:

-- Former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, a conservative Republican who cared about clemency (and acted on it) is pondering a run for President.  He is a good guy; in 2013, he came to St. Thomas to speak and made a strong impression.

-- In 2008, Mitt Romney prepared an attack ad against Mike Huckabee focused on his use of clemency (about 1,000 instances during his time as governor of Arkansas), but decided not to use it.

-- Huckabee links his use of clemency to his faith.  As I said in the article, this creates a great opportunity to re-cast the political debate over clemency.

The 2016 election is going to be fascinating...

Monday, January 26, 2015


What I liked….

Well, I liked all of the seafood haikus, but this one from Melissa the best:

Fresh oysters paired with
Hell or High Watermelon.
Thanks, Rappahannock!

I have no idea what "Hell or High Watermelon" is, but it is fun to say!

Oh!  And the Duchess:

On Inisheer the white
Horse-drawn redwagon, driven
In soft Gaelic tongue

Took us to a pub
Where the chowder: scallops, mussels,
Cod sang from its bowl.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Rome

I spent the summer of 2013 in Rome; I don't write about it much because it was a difficult summer.  

The city is, like all cities, a crazy mix of mayhem and beauty.  The traffic is overwhelming and dangerous, the city is dirty, and there seems to be a general sense that things don't work very well.  Still, it was a place of found treasure.

At night, I would often wander around on my own, just getting lost in narrow streets then trying to find my way back.  It was, I guess, one way of forcing myself to see the city.

One night, not long after I got there, I was pretty well lost.  I turned and reversed course, wandered and followed crowds.  Then, out of nowhere, was the Pantheon.  It was built at the time of Christ, then rebuilt under Hadrian, and sits at one end of a large plaza.  Consecrated as a church in the 7th century, it has been in continuous use for 2,000 years.  

I stood and looked.  I loved the light of the place, the lines of it.  I didn't go in, at least that night, but didn't have to.  Sometimes, the chance to see beauty is enough to redeem us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Fake Service Dogs on Planes...

Not long ago, I was checking in for a flight, and the couple ahead of me had two dogs with them.  The dogs were wearing service dog-style vests and ID tags, but…

Well, they didn't seem like very well trained dogs.  They tried to run away a few times, they barked a lot, and at one point got in a fight with one another.  The longer I was around them, the more it bugged me

I love being around dogs that are doing what they were bred to do.  I have gone dog-sledding, and it was incredible to see the dogs straining to go, trying to get picked for the team.  I've hunted with bird dogs, and was amazed at their abilities and loved how happy they were doing it.  In my work as  prosecutor, I got to know some remarkable and incredibly disciplined dogs trained to detect drugs and explosives.  I have friends who use well-trained service dogs, and understand how important they can be, and what a unique and valuable service they provide to people with physical handicaps and allergies.

But this was just messy.  As I walked to the plane, I could still hear them barking aimlessly.  I think this can't be good for real service dogs, who are needed and important.

Apparently, the rules are pretty lax about service-type dogs on planes.  According to the "Dog Registry" website, (which sells a "Emotional Support Dog ID Kit" for $155 including vest), an "emotional support dog" is allowed on planes for free just like a service dog, only without all the training and discipline.

And yeah, the dogs were on the plane, with all the accompanying antics.  Sigh.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Haiku Friday: Seafood!

When I read this fascinating article about Lolo's Seafood Shack in Harlem, I knew what this week's topic should be: seafood.  

At least once a week, I try to eat something good from the sea (or maybe a lake or river).  I love grilling fish-- though not this time of year-- and I'm a fan of shrimp, scallops, and... well, lots of stuff.  So haiku about what you love or hate, just do it!

Here is mine:

 Thick slab of salmon
Brushed with wine and butter,
Get in my belly!

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Let's NOT talk about race?

In a comment to my piece on Tuesday advocating talk about race, Anonymous2 disagreed, saying:

See blog, first page of today's Waco Tribune-Herald, re BU BB fan.

The picture speaks a thousand words.

Some subjects are not always and everywhere fit subjects for oral conversation. Can't imagine my black neighbors and I profiting by verbalizing on the subject of race in general terms, and no need to on a personal level. Basketball, chinch bugs, irregular postal delivery, and concerns about health, bereavement, the neighborhood association and Neighborhood Watch have real world relevance and are more in our line.

"Hey Rico, how do you feel about race relations in Waco?" I don't think so.

You can see the Waco Trib story referred to here, and the photo is above.

What do you think of Anonymous2's response?  For what it is worth, the city of Waco is roughly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 hispanic, and Anonymous2's thoughts weren't a surprise to me based on the 10 years I lived there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A good answer….

Yesterday was the first day of my criminal law class, and in talking about murder I used the picture above.  It is Caravaggio's depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes.  

If you don't know the story behind the painting, it's simple and compelling.  Holofernes was the Assyrian general who was about to destroy the Jewish city of Bethulia.  Judith, a widow from that city, was able to get into Holofernes tent and kill him.

My question was "is this murder?"  The students got to a good answer which was "It might be a justifiable killing."  

But someone had an even better answer-- that it depends on whether the Jews or the Assyrians were deciding.  

Which is absolutely true.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Talking about race

Last night, I went to an event hosted by Nekima Levy-Pounds, my St. Thomas colleague who is one of the ten people charged with misdemeanors in relation to the Mall of America protests.  She is a great presenter and facilitator, and led a remarkable discussion.

We talked about race.  The discussion began with a reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "moderate whites" are the biggest obstacle to racial change.  In response to this, several people-- including me-- identified ourselves as white moderates.  I'm not ashamed of that description, and had the chance to talk about the work I have done.  It led (as you might imagine) to a broader and fascinating discussion about a wide array of racial issues among a group that was about evenly split between black and white. 

I suppose what struck me most was how rare this discussion is, at least in a racially mixed environment.  It's brave and good of Nekima to do this-- and next time I will post on the blog that such a discussion is coming up!

Monday, January 19, 2015


Haiku fever!

Wow!  There were some two dozen haikus last week on the topic of coffee… check them all out here.  You might have your own favorite, but I admired Craig A.'s admission that people in Boston actually think the coffee at Dunkin' Donuts is good:

Dunkin rules Beantown
Regulah DD coffee:
With cream and sugar

He gets bonus points for the accent and the double-meaning reference to "Beantown!"

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Sunday Reflection: On the snow

When I was a kid, my family would go skiing at Blue Mountain in Canada, not far from Detroit.  It wasn't a fancy place; the restaurant was called "Eat."  

That was where my dad taught me to ski.  Mostly, I followed him and watched.  He would step off the top of a slope eagerly, and then gain speed.  He was elegant and strong all at once, and transfixing to watch as he cut turns down the hill and I did my best to keep up.  His movements on the snow were like his brushstrokes when he paints-- placed with great certainty as part of a whole that was emerging with each movement.  

On the lift, he would ask me and my brother questions.  He would circle around a little before getting to it, of course; he paints and skis and thinks in dots and curves, not lines.  He would ask about school, maybe, but more often about the future.  What did we want to do?  I don't remember my answer, but it might have been that I wanted to write about how the world could be better, and have people read it and talk to each other (because that is what I dreamed of when I sat in my room at the blue desk he had built for me). 

Today's an interesting day.  One of my all-time favorite writers, Frank Bruni of the New York Times, called this week to talk, and quoted me in his excellent column about Mark Wahlberg in that paper today.  Closer to home, I have a piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today, about the charges laid against the alleged organizers of the Mall of America protest last week (including my beloved colleague Nekima Levy-Pounds).

Probably there are a few people mad at me now, and others who read these things and talked to each other.   What I'm thinking about, though, is watching my dad ski, the beautiful line he would cut with me behind him awkwardly tracking those brushstrokes in the snow.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


New IPLawGuy video...

Ok, from the information I have, an unnamed foreign government sent this video to IPLawGuy as a way of suggesting better behavior on his next trip there.  The panda represents IPLawGuy (and his friends:

Friday, January 16, 2015


Haiku Friday: Coffee

Coffee.  For lots of people, it is built into the fabric of each day.  For others, they… well, they watch other people who are obsessed with coffee.

Let's haiku about coffee today-- our own experiences, general observations, people who drink too much, whatever!  Here, I will go first:

In Waco one day
I took a chance, got a latte
Bam!  A whole new world.

Now it is your turn! Just make if 5/7/5 syllable-wise, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Policy and Higher Education

I found this chart over at Paul Waldman's American Prospect blog.  I had no idea how far we have come in high school completion and higher education in this country since the time my parents were born.  In 1940, less than a quarter of Americans graduated from high school!

Part of this has been driven by the economy.  In 1940, a 16-year-old boy could get a job in a mine or a factory that paid a decent wage and which he might expect to have for the rest of his life (it was a little different for women, of course).  Finishing high school was a luxury.  Those jobs, of course, largely don't exist anymore.

Is it worthwhile to push for higher levels of college completion now?  If so, how do we do it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Ohio State!

As a lifelong Michigan fan, it's hard to say this, but-- I'm really glad Ohio State won the national championship in football yesterday, beating Oregon, 42-20.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1)  Ohio State was a good story of persevering in times of adversity.  They lost in the second week of the season to a pretty mediocre team (Virginia Tech), and their first-string and second-string quarterbacks were lost to injury for the season.  And yet, they beat the Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon with their 3rd-string quarterback.

2)  It was a great end of the season for the Big 10, which started slow.  With Ohio State beating Alabama and Oregon, Michigan State edging Baylor, and Wisconsin beating Auburn, the top tier of the Big 10 looks pretty strong.  Which brings me to...

3)  I'm pretty tired of hearing about SEC dominance, even though it is rooted in truth (SEC teams won the national championship every year from 2006-2012).  The underlying dynamic to that claim was about sectionalism-- that good football was now only played in the south.  That claim to a permanent shift in power has been challenged by the outcomes this year... but that's only one year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Gas n' Milk

I'm still not used to gas being under $2 a gallon, but it looks like that will be the case for at least the next several months.  Politically, this has some great effects, not the least of which is hobbling the Russian economy better than any sanctions we might impose.  Air travel (over time) should become cheaper, and more money should be coming into the broader economy that is usually funneled to energy costs.  And I don't mind paying less.  

Finally, too, a bizarre anomaly has been reversed.  For many years, gas was more expensive, per gallon, than milk.  It was an easy comparison to make, since many gas stations sell milk, priced per gallon.  

This made no sense to me.  Oil is pumped out of the ground by the barrel, refined and shipped.  Pretty easy.  Milk, on the other hand… you gotta raise and milk a cow every day!  It just made no sense that milk would be cheaper than gas.  Part of the reason for this skewed market was government subsidies, of course.

Now, however, the world makes sense again-- milk costs more than gas.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Feeding my burger jones...

So many good haiku last week!  People liked this one from Robert Johnson:

They say, "Where you get
that big, welfare, green-pepper
burger?" And you cry.

-Eddie Murphy

And I have to say that, thanks to Gavin, I can't get the idea of "fat pants" out of my head:

Matt's. Blue Door. The Nook.
Let's try em all, find the best.
Hand me my fat pants.

Finally... what is this burger that Zohra Watkins speaks of?

Bacon smooches angus
Who insinuated cheddar
Who romance tomato

Who Sashayed Pickle
Who was aroma'd by Red
Onion,all BBQ sauced!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Charlie Hebdo and the Problem of Eggshells

Twelve people were killed these week because a (relatively small) group of Muslims were upset that they had printed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed and some Muslim leaders.  At root, they wanted people outside of their faith to respect and follow the tenets of their faith.

Quite simply, that doesn't work.  You simply can't get adherence by others to your beliefs by demanding it.  This is especially true of identity groups, such as religions and ethnic groups.  When Christians insist that non-Christians go around saying "Merry Christmas," it is a much tamer version of the same dysfunction.  If you want me to be like you, tell me your story rather than make demands.

Often when I write on religious subjects I am assailed from two sides.  First, some conservative Christians write to accuse me of "sin" because I expressed my views, or to express their expectation (and sometimes their hope) that I spend an eternity in hell.  Often, they go to lengths to describe what that will be like.  On the other side, atheists deride me as an imbecile for believing in God at all, and for trying to follow ancient moral tenets set out in the Bible.  I just kinda shrug at both.  At this point, if I don't get that reaction, I wonder what went wrong.  Both of those groups want me to believe precisely what they do, and I don't.  I can't say it bothers me much that they get upset, and often it feels like they are canceling one another out.

I say that from a place of great privilege because I (1) am blessed to live in a place with free speech AND freedom of religion, and (2) to their credit, the groups that oppose me are just employing their own right to free speech rather than resorting to violence.  That second point is an important one-- and too little recognized, especially in a week like this one.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


The Interview

Don't tell Kim Jong Un, but I saw it… the Seth Rogan/ James Franco comedy "The Interview," which has caused a fuss after hackers (obviously backed by North Korea) tried to prevent its release.

I suppose in part the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris made me want to see it-- a tiny little response to the increasing efforts to limit speech by violent groups who are easily offended.  

As for the movie, it was pretty good.  As is often true, there was a lot more foul language and violence than the story really needed, but it was funny-- much funnier than some reviews had led me to believe.  It wasn't satire, actually, but just a stupid comedy with a broad but true point beneath it.

It's been a wearying week, hasn't it?  

Friday, January 09, 2015


Haiku Friday: Best Best Best Burgers...

Here in Minneapolis, there is something called the Juicy Lucy.  It's a hamburger grilled with cheese on the inside, and done right it is just awesome.  It's the perfect burger.  

Let's haiku about that today.  Here, I will go first:

Grab it right up, fresh
Bite down… ow!  That cheese is hot!
Gotta wait a bit.

Now it is your turn… just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Killing Cartoonists

Like others, I am still trying to sort out what happened yesterday in Paris.  This much we know:  Muslim extremists, offended by the religious satire of a magazine called Charlie Hebdo, forced their way into the magazine's offices and killed twelve people. 

The best writing on this so far, as has been true before, was by Razor Hero of Writing Bob Darden.  His piece in the Huffington Post, In The Wake of Charlie Hebdo: Why Satire Matters, reflects on his own time running the late, great Wittenburg Door (which I wrote religious satire for under the alias "Phyllis N. Lewis"):

You can be pretty fearless when you have nothing to lose. For the last 12 years of the magazine's life, it was owned and operated by the Trinity Foundation of Dallas, Texas, a non-profit ministry devoted to helping the homeless. They didn't even own the building where the magazine was housed. Our exposés meant that the Trinity Foundation was sued a number of times, which thrilled our publisher, Ole Anthony. Lawsuits meant legal discovery... and no televangelists wanted our pro bono lawyers going through their financial records. Plus, not owning anything meant that, even if we lost the lawsuit, there were no assets to seize. So most suits were quietly dropped. They'd only been meant to scare or silence us.

That's why the brutal, barbaric murders by fanatics at Charlie Hebdo magazine are so disturbing on so many levels. Charlie Hebdo had been fire-bombed once before, following the publication of an editorial cartoon said to depict the Prophet Muhammad. The magazine's editor, who was killed in the assault, already had 24-hour police protection. Four cartoonists were killed. As I write this, several more people were injured, some critically, so the death toll could climb higher still.

According to reports, witnesses said the masked gunmen opened fire during the editorial meeting, screaming that they had now "avenged the Prophet Muhammad!"

Leaders of every civilized nation on the planet, regardless of that nation's prevailing religious traditions, should swiftly, vigorously, and angrily condemn this cowardly attack. It is an assault on the freedom of speech and the core tenets of democracy. The demarcation line between civilization and bloody chaos blurs dangerously when something like this happens.

This is because, in part, the use of printed (and now digital) satire is an old and honorable response to the excesses of government and religion. When the people have no other voice, when the main media outlets are controlled by the state (or too fearful to challenge the state), satire flourishes. One of the few ways the citizen can hold the rich and powerful accountable is to employ humor and satire.

While we were proud of our exposés in The Wittenburg Door, where we made the most difference, I believe, was when we got people laughing at the pompous priests and pastors and politicians and para-church leaders who used Christianity to make a buck. Martin Luther, a fairly dour fellow himself, once said that what Satan hates most is to be laughed at. It's hard to take the pious pronouncements of a televangelist seriously if you're laughing at him.

But here's the key: It takes a mature religion to handle laughter. The Jews have had an extraordinarily grim history, but one of their greatest survival mechanisms is the ability to laugh both at their circumstances and at themselves.

Satire-writers always point out the foibles and fables of those higher up the food chain. Your targets must be the proud and the powerful. If you make fun of people less fortunate than you, even if it is for legitimate satiric effect, then it is not satire. It is bullying. Being a bully is never funny.

Satire, like folk music and freedom songs, works best when it is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

If Charlie Hebdo were to close because of this senseless, horrific massacre, then we're all lessened by its loss. The magazine stands for a lot more than just a few thousand subscribers and a few uncomfortable French politicians. It stands for the ability of humanity to transcend its darkest impulses.

If you are a believer and you believe that the God Who created the universe loves you, then I believe that you can probably conceive of a God who can handle humor, laughter, teasing, and -- yes -- satire. That's the description of a Big God. A little God gets easily offended by the chattering of minuscule bipeds on a backwater planet at the edge of an insignificant solar system in the quiet suburbs of a very, very big universe.

The ability to understand and appreciate satire, religious or political, is one of the defining, distinctive qualities of an actualized, fully functioning human being, one who is big enough to occasionally laugh at himself or herself, and one who knows that occasionally his or her sacred cow is going to get gored.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


"Quagmire" is not a good word to see...

… in an article about a project you care about.  Yet, Josh Gerstein's thorough Politico piece yesterday about the Clemency Project 2014 was titled Obama's Drug-Sentencing Quagmire.

It's hard to disagree with what Gerstein has to say.  Still, it's tremendously discouraging, particularly what he got from sources within the administration, who seem to uniformly downplay the importance of the Clemency Project.

Here is part of the Politico report:

While any prisoner can submit a commutation request directly to the Justice Department, some lawyers claim that the close coordination between the Clemency Project and the administration suggests that prisoners going through the project will have a faster, inside track. The attorneys say comments from project organizers have reinforced that impression.

Administration officials insist the outside groups have no official role. All applications will be reviewed by Justice Department lawyers before recommendations are sent to the White House, they say. However, officials acknowledge that trained attorneys can help prisoners submit “well-prepared” applications that will speed processing by the relatively small staff at the department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.

But even with the controversial assistance from outside groups, so far only a trickle of applications has been submitted by those organizations to the Justice Department, sources said. None of those were among the eight approved by Obama last month, all of which came from thousands of petitions already on file with the Justice Department….

A Justice Department official denied that applications by the Clemency Project will receive special treatment.

“We’re not giving Clemency Project 2014 any special priority,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “This is not to say applications coming from the Clemency Project might not possibly be of better quality,” the official added, alluding to officials’ hope that the project can help prisoners make their best case for early release.

Read more:

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


So, just since I am a fan of a team that STILL hasn't won a playoff game since 1903 or something...

I'm going to recap the atrocities from the Lions-Cowboys game on Sunday, which the Cowboys won 24-20.  Much of this was adequately covered by the Sporting News, which included video in their indictment of the outcome.

Here is the basic rundown:

1)  Detroit is ahead 20-17 late in the 4th quarter.  It's third-and-one on the Dallas 46.  The Cowboys commit a pretty obvious pass interference penalty, and the closest ref throws a flag.  The head ref announces the penalty.  BUT THEN, for some reason, they reverse course and say there was no penalty.  Weird.

2)  At 4th and 1 after that play, the Lions punt-- just not very well.  It goes 14 yards before wobbling out of bounds.

3)  The Cowboys then score and win the game.

Originally, I thought that the NFL's head of officiating was on the Cowboy's party bus after the game, but it turns out that was last August.  Still…

Monday, January 05, 2015


Things I don't understand...

First, the horrifying Chris Christie/Jerry Jones failed high five/group hug, which would appall me even if I weren't a Lions fan:

Second, I don't totally understand this haiku from Jill Scoggins, but I love it!

Dinner with good friends.
Joe's champagne vinegar and
mustard cabbage. Ahhhhhhhhh

Sunday, January 04, 2015


Sunday Reflection: The quiet

The holidays are now behind us.  Something interesting happened this year; I got a lot of quiet time for reflection in the midst of it all. In part this was due to being sick, but also a happy combination of time with my family in Michigan and some driving.  

One thing that happened was this: I was able to unpack a few moments from the last year that went by too fast.  

One of them was fleeting but full.  When I debated the brilliant Judge Richard Sullivan at Yale Law School, my time was short.  I set aside my notes and delivered something that may have come off more as a rant than anything else, passionate and intense and, er, maybe not totally thought-through.  Now I am having the time to think it through.

One of the things I said in that rant was something I don't remember even having thought before.  It was a question rather than a statement, and now I am thinking through that question and coming to some answers.  The question was this:  "Why does drug dealing make us so angry?"  As a society, it does, after all.  That anger is reflected not only in laws and sentences, but the statements made by prosecutors and judges who speak for us all when they argue for and issue those sentences.  I have heard it many times, and read transcripts; in truth I delivered a few myself when I was a prosecutor.  Drug dealers, at some level, are more like white collar criminals than anything else-- theirs is a crime of capitalist instinct.

I love that this good question came out of the blue, and I wonder where it came from.  Perhaps leaving some of what I was saying unrehearsed allowed for something better to arise.  There are times when we call that the Holy Spirit, which can enter us only if we are not already full of ourselves.

Saturday, January 03, 2015


Northern Football doing OK...

Beyond the ESPN-driven trope that the SEC West was the best division in football history-- now disproven after bowl losses by Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Miss. St. and Ole Miss-- is the longer-running idea that northern schools can't compete with the south.  That idea has been challenged by the bowl results this year in the big games between northern and southern schools (keeping in mind that many games, like TCU/Ole Miss were intra-regional):

Ohio State > Alabama
Oregon > Florida State
Michigan State > Baylor
Wisconsin > Auburn
Notre Dame > LSU

Is it an aberration or a trend?

Friday, January 02, 2015


Haiku Friday: New Year's Day

What a day!  I got to watch the Cotton Bowl with a vociferous Michigan State fan (Sleepy Walleye) and a die-hard Baylor fan (the Spanish Medievalist, who just about did die).  It was a great game!  I was pulling for Baylor, but it was hard not to like both teams.

Let's haiku not just about football, but whatever it is you did yesterday.  Here, I will go first:

Watched on seat-edge
Number 80 rumbles in!
Then… Walleye dances.

Now it is your turn!  Use the 5/7/5 syllable per line count, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Happy New Year!

I love New Year's Day.  It's the most artificial of holidays of course, since picking a day to start the year is completely arbitrary, but we still are welcome to imbue it with meaning.  I choose to do so.  

This day I let myself hope for new things, and this year I am hoping for the unexpected, the startling, the joyful.  I hope that we can change things for the better, and appreciate the good that is already here. I hope for a stronger sense of my own limits, so that I am not either wasting talents or over-extending myself.  

And I hope that you, too, have hope...

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