Sunday, May 31, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Death of an Elder

Yesterday, Mormon Leader L. Tom Perry died at age 92.  He wasn't a "former leader," either-- he was an influential member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which is the governing body of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  As I have discussed here before, I disagree with the Mormons on many issues but deeply respect many of my Mormon friends and students (which comprise interlocking groups), and recognize the influence that faith has in their life.

I find it fascinating-- and admirable-- that Mormons have true elders in such high positions. Not only the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but the subordinate Quorum of the Seventy (Christians will understand the meaning of those numbers) have members who are 80 and older.  The only other similar body I can think of is the United States Senate, which I have similarly admired.

Certainly, there arguments against older people holding leadership positions.  The principle argument has been that they are resistant to change.  My own experience does not bear that out, however. I have seen-- close up, and at a distance-- people over 80 embrace and lead groups towards change.

At age 80, my grandfather went water-skiing.  More importantly, he endeavored to build his own computer, and did so.  He also led the computerization of his accounting firm, and continued to be a creative leading force in his community.  It made a deep impression on me.

The Bible shows God choosing people who are very old and very young for important positions and roles.  Should we be so different?

Saturday, May 30, 2015


End of the soft schedule?

Apparently, Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw (who has done an incredible job of building up the program) is working at improving the football team's non-conference schedule for the next several years. That's a good thing, given this list of non-conference opponents between now and 2020:

Incarnate Word (I didn't know that was a school, much less a school with a football team)
Northwestern State (Louisiana)
Abilene Christian

In their defense, Baylor administrators scheduled these teams years ago, when (let's face it), those teams had a shot at winning! Now as a 2-time Big 12 champ, things are different….

Friday, May 29, 2015


Haiku Friday: Amusements!

About 30-some years ago, the entire 8th grade at Brownell Middle School celebrated the end of the school year by joining with two other schools on a jaunt to Bob-Lo Island. Bob-Lo was an amusement park that was reached by taking a ride on the Bob-Lo Boat (pictured above). The Boat featured junk food, a DJ, and dancing among other things. For 1200 8th graders, it was a pretty awesome day.

Let's haiku about amusement parks, or maybe any other amusements you might want to discuss.  Here, I'll go first:

On the Bob-Lo Boat
It was fun and hot and loud;
Mostly very loud.

Now it is your turn! Make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and have some fun!

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Because it is Spring...

I have this post up at HuffPo: A Church with Open Doors.


Political Mayhem Thursday: Nebraska Turns Away from the Death Penalty

In a move that surprised many people (including me), Nebraska became the seventh state in the last decade to get rid of the death penalty (joining New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Maryland).

Intriguingly, Nebraska's unicameral legislature overrode the Governor's veto to complete the job. Some of the legislators cited their Christian faith as a reason for their vote against capital punishment.

Much has been made of the fact that Nebraska is a conservative state, and the first one to rid itself of the death penalty since 1973, when North Dakota made that choice.  However, there are other conservative states that don't have the death penalty.  For example, a few years ago I spoke in Alaska on this subject. Alaska has not had the death penalty since statehood began, and there seems to be little movement now towards embracing it. The fact is that for a less-populated state like Nebraska or Alaska, the mechanisms required by capital punishment-- legal and institutional-- are particularly expensive because the penalty is rarely used.

In urging the legislature to sustain his veto, Governor Pete Ricketts cited a 2002 bank robbery/murder. That kind of argument always seems odd to me; after all, the presence of the death penalty didn't deter those murders.

Even though I obviously have a position on this issue, I acknowledge that there are principled arguments on both sides of the question of capital punishment. I do know that American law and opinion is evolving on this issue, and I'm very glad to see that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


The Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law

As I returned from China a few weeks ago, I got some great news: I was chosen as the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law.

You might think that because St. Thomas Law School is only about 14 years old that there are no great stories yet, but you would be wrong. In fact, the Short Chair itself involves three great stories: That of Robert and Marion Short, who endowed the chair, and those of my two predecessors, Judge Patrick Schiltz and Professor Susan Stabile.

Robert and Marion Short

Bob Short was a remarkable man, as is his widow, Marion.  Bob Short was a lawyer who built a business, a graduate of St. Thomas and Georgetown's Law School.  He and Marion settled in Edina, the town where I live now.  They built up a freight company, branched into hotels and real estate, and later purchased the Minnesota Lakers NBA franchise (which they wisely moved to Los Angeles) and the Washington Senators baseball team (which they moved to Texas, where the team became the Rangers).  After Bob Short's death in 1982, Marion very ably managed the businesses they had created.

Short was an ally and friend of Hubert Humphrey's, which might explain the evident discomfort he seems to have felt when he was seated next to Richard Nixon at a Senators game:

The Shorts took risks, built something worthwhile, and participated broadly not only in business and law, but sports and politics.  It seems fitting that the Short family are my neighbors, and that two of Robert and Marion Short's grandchildren have already been my students.

Hon. Patrick J. Schiltz

Judge Schiltz (who now sits on the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota), was one of the founders of the law school at St. Thomas. He and his wife, Elizabeth (who remains a treasured colleague), came to UST from faculty positions at Notre Dame.  As the new school began, he held the key role of Associate Dean-- the person who has to make the schedules and keep people in line.  Pat and Lisa took a great risk in making that move to a school that didn't yet exist in 2000, and among the beneficiaries of that risk are me and my students. 

Recently, one of my students came to see me and plopped down on the green couch on my office.  She had just come from observing a sentencing Judge Schiltz had conducted.  This student is both a smart and street-smart person, and she was eager to reflect on what she had seen.  What had captured her in particular was the care the Judge had taken to evaluate the case-- it was clear that he was consummately well-prepared to make a hard decision.

Based on all that I knew about Judge Schiltz, I was not surprised.

Susan Stabile

My immediate predecessor is Susan Stabile, who is both my hero and friend.

For the past five years, Susan has been the person who has challenged me as a Christian and an academic who takes Christianity seriously.  We have had a series of Catholic/Protestant debates, both formal and informal, on topics ranging from creedalism to saints.  With her, I learn.

Like the Schiltz's, Susan came to St. Thomas early on.  In her case, she was happily ensconced at St. John's University in New York, where she grew up. She was drawn to UST's potential, and took a risk by moving to a part of the country that had previously been virtually a blank spot on the map. She is an expert in both employee benefits and Catholic social thought, perhaps the only person in the country with that combination of attributes.  She is a former Tibetan Buddhist nun who returned to the Catholic church with a depth of understanding that she now shares with a very lucky circle of people.  I am happy to be one of them. If taking over her chair can make me a little more like Susan, that's a very good thing.

So, can a 14-year-old school have legends? You bet. And the best part is that they are still here to sit down and have coffee with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Memorial Day, 2015

Yesterday I rode my bike down to the park across the street from my church, St. Stephens. My town, Edina, was dedicating a new memorial to those who had died in the nation's wars.  The ceremony was very well done: the politicians kept their speeches short and topical, the band was great, and the right tone (somber) was set. The new monument is sent in a quiet corner under a canopy of trees and close to the banks of Minnehaha Creek.

Edina, in fact, has lost less than 40 men and women in all of the nation's wars.  I was surprised that it wasn't more, but the fact that the population boom here came late in the 20th century probably has something to do with that.  Still, they were remembered, as Boy Scouts stood holding pictures of each one of them as the politicians spoke, and their families sat attentively.

None of them chose the war; they simply chose to serve.

Our last three presidents (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) have involved our soldiers in war, but none of them served on active duty in the military, a sharp break from their predecessors. President Carter, for example, graduated from the Naval Academy and served as a Navy officer. Ronald Reagan joined the Army reserve in 1937, and was called up to active duty in 1942. George H.W. Bush was a genuine war hero, flying 58 missions as a naval aviator. Those three actively avoided protracted wars. Reagan chose not to respond when a Marine barracks was attacked in Beirut in 1983 by a group called "Islamic Jihad," killing 241 American soldiers. While the first President Bush did choose war with Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, he limited that war to the goal of restoring Kuwait, and declined to pursue "regime change."

War, if it is chosen at all, should be chosen rarely.  The reason for that discernment is written on that freshly carved granite in Edina, in the park by the creek-- the creek where we baptize children in the summer, and skate in the winter, and which ceaselessly, gently, wears rocks into pebbles, smooth as night.

Monday, May 25, 2015


IPLG on Zepellin

Here was IPLawGuy's haiku:

Jimmy and Robert
John Paul Jones, Jason Bonham
Bring back Zeppelin!

And here is his reasoning:

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Spring

There is a lot to love about Spring. Last night, I cooked in the back yard and left the doors to the house wide open. There are no bugs yet, and the temperature was just right, so why not?

One thing I love that we start to see in May is the sight of a church with its doors wide open to the air and the sun and the people walking by.  Something about that makes my heart sing; it is such a metaphor for what a church should be to the community, but too rarely is.

There have been times that I have been in a church and they have left the doors open even during the worship service.  What I love then are the sounds of it all. There are the city noises, and (at St Stephens) the sound of the creek, and snatches of conversation as people walk by.  I close my eyes, knowing people will assume I am deep in prayer, but I am listening like a spy with his ear pressed to a radio receiver, soaking up the clues to what is happening just beyond those doors...

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Because you know I love mascots...

And this did not change my mind!

Friday, May 22, 2015


Haiku Friday: Bring it Back!

So, McDonald's has brought back the Hamburglar, my favorite character. In fact, he showed up in my Crim Law final, which I am grading right now…

Of course, they brought him back as a suburban dad who some find a little creepy. In fact, Fortune magazine described him as "half hot suburban dad, half creepy neighborhood peeping Tom." That doesn't sound good. We should just be glad that McDonald's didn't bring back his brother, the much more dangerous ham-murderer:

Anyways… let's haiku this week about stuff that companies should bring back.  TV shows, hamburger mascots, entire franchise concepts, whatever!  Here, I will go first:

Hey there, CBC…
Bring Back the Friendly Giant!
The best morning show.

Now it is your turn! I have made it easy again-- no word verification or blocking of anonymous posts.  Just use the 5/7/5 syllable recipe, and have some fun!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


In tomorrow's Minneapolis Star-Tribune...


Political Mayhem Thursday: Re-thinking Railroads

After the terrible accident on Amtrak's key Philadelphia-New York corridor recently, there have been some interesting discussions about the future of rail transit in the U.S.A.

China, as many commentators have noted, has built a remarkable network of high-speed trains, which now are used by over 2.5 million people a day. They have the largest system in the world-- in fact, more high-speed lines than every other system combined.

The train I took, from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, was a conventional train, one of 12 a day traveling that route; the high-speed line connecting those cities is now being built.  Still, it was plenty fast, very comfortable, and cheap.

I've always loved trains, and have crossed the continent on both Amtrak and VIA rail in Canada.  I think it is especially worthwhile on crowded corridors like Chicago-Milwaukee, Boston-DC, and Seattle-San Diego.  As a nation, we seem to cycle regularly between considering a broader use of high-speed rail and cutting back on the train service we already have.  Most recently, Congress was voting to cut funds to Amtrak just as the accident near Philadelphia happened.

Should rail play a bigger role in the U.S.?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


The Other Side of the Wrold

My last class of the year (pictured above) was on the other side of the world, at Guangzhou University in China.  It was an amazing day.  In China, professors usually sit behind a desk and deliver their lectures in two hour batches.  My style, of course, veers more towards wandering around while waving my arms over my head.  Right now I am sporting some pretty serious Crazy Professor Hair, too. It appears they don't get a lot of that in China.

So, all in all, it was  pretty good way to wind up what has been a great year...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Morning Wave in Busan!

While I was in China earlier this month (using the above illustration), I got an interview request from a radio station in South Korea. They were surprised to find that I was already in Asia! It turns out that South Korea is considering introducing clemency as a part of their system of criminal justice, and they wanted to talk about the way clemency works in the USA.  It was a fascinating opportunity. You can hear the interview here if you scroll down to the entry for May 7.

Monday, May 18, 2015


A Haiku of the Shores Park

Christine perfectly captured a central touchstone of my childhood last week:

While most travelled north
to cottages on ski lakes
and summer horse camp

We pulled out our bikes,
swim suits and tennis rackets
The Shores Park awaits.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Sunday Reflection: One of the Best Days of the Year


Saturday, May 16, 2015


Photo Quiz...

So, what do you think this is?

Friday, May 15, 2015


Haiku friday: Summer Travel!

We all have done it-- gone to a lake or a camp or a park in the summer, even if just for an afternoon.  Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

No Osler Island,
This. I walk in the night air;
Jungle canopy.

Now it is your turn! Just make if five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third...

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Minority Race

While working at the University of Guangzhou, I found myself a little isolated out on "University Island"-- which is literally an island containing the "Mega-University Center" where ten or so schools are located.  It is mostly tall towers and concrete school buildings.

To get a taste of the rest of the city, I found the nearest stop for the Metro (which turned out to be "Mega-University South) and took the train into town.  The Metro is pretty remarkable-- fast trains and frequent, but remarkably crowded.  I quickly learned how important it was to stand in the right place, and when to move into or out of a train. To get to the center of the city, I had to change trains twice.

Both time I took the subway, I noticed the same thing: I was the only person on the train who wasn't Chinese.  It may have been a fluke, of course; certainly there are Europeans and Africans and Australians and North and South Americans doing business there, but they just weren't taking the train, or at least they weren't taking it at the same time I was. Still, for that short moment I thought "Huh! This is what it is like to be a racial minority."

It was a short moment, though.  Just as quickly, a voice in my head, the voice of reason, said "no, it's not." And that second voice was right. The truth was that I could get out of the subway and pretty easily find a church or a pub where most people looked like me. I could jump on a plane and come home, where I can (unfortunately)  go a day without seeing a minority member.  It was in part because of the majority advantages I have had, too, that I was able to go there at all and see a place on the other side of the world. To say "this is what it is like to be a racial minority is about as true as standing in the shower and imagining that now I know what it is like to be a fish.

But still, there was a bit of truth in that moment.  The vulnerability, for one thing, and the way people looked at me as the person who did not fit in.  The sense that I had to do everything just right-- stand in the right spot, not fumble with my ticket (actually a green disk), so that people wouldn't think that people "like me" are incompetent. Perhaps even the repressed desire to hold myself away from the others on the train, so I wouldn't be stared at.

But that is just a bit. Still, a bit more than I had ever had before...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Clemency in Foreign Lands

Last week, I got to talk about a familiar topic-- clemency-- in unfamiliar places. I gave a two-hour lecture on the topic at the University of Guangzhou, and also gave a lengthy radio interview to a station in South Korea. The two were unconnected-- the radio station didn't know I was in Asia when they contacted me, so it was just a remarkable coincidence.

You can hear the radio interview here.  Apparently, South Korea is considering introducing the mechanism of clemency into their criminal law system.  How cool is that?

The lecture in China was so fascinating to give.  Before I started, the translator came to me and pointed to a word. "What does this mean?" she asked.  She was pointing to the word "clemency."  I struggled to explain it-- the word and idea are totally alien to the Chinese system.

Starting from scratch to explain it helped me see the idea anew.  It is, in a way, rooted in the American trust in the individual conscience, which is something the Chinese see as remarkable (and perhaps foolish).  Over and over, I had to go back to that basic Constitutional ideal of the individual as a locus of power and holder of rights.  It was a good thing to have to explain; in a way I was teaching myself, too.

The best days go like that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


In today's Waco Tribune-Herald...

You know what I love (among many other things)? I love getting to write regularly for the paper I read every day for ten years, the Waco Tribune-Herald. Here is my piece in that paper today: Watching Riots from Waco.



Sorry!  I have blogged every day since 2006-- almost nine years-- until last week, as some of you have noticed.

There is a good reason, though.  I was giving lectures (on the death penalty, ethics, clemency, incarceration policy and US law school training) at the University of Guangzhou, in China.  The details are all on the poster above.  I planned to blog from there, but the Chinese government restricts the internet there, and among the things you can't access is the Razor.  Who knew? I suspect that it is because the Razor is on a Google platform, and Google is pretty much blocked over there.

Now that I am back in Razorland, safe and sound, I will have some posts to follow about the fascinating things I saw in China. 

Monday, May 04, 2015


IPLawGuy and Cheez

You may not love Cheez Doodles, but you should love this (IPLG's haiku):

Cheetos, Cheez Doodles!
Puffy, orange, delicious!
All over my clothes.

Sunday, May 03, 2015


Sunday Reflection: A verse in my head

A week ago today, the strangest thing happened: I woke up with the citation to a Bible verse stuck in my head. Not the text of that verse-- I couldn't remember it-- but the citation to the verse: Isaiah 11.

You probably know your Bible better than I do, and recognized that important prophesy of the Messiah:

1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
3and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearlinga together;
and a little child will lead them.
7The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

I wonder what dream prompted that! 

Saturday, May 02, 2015


More problems with IPLawClient

So, IPLawGuy sent me a link to this story:

FORT EDWARD  The trial of a Glens Falls man who is charged with knocking out his lawyer in a Washington County Jail meeting room was delayed Thursday when he attacked his new lawyer in court in front of nearly a dozen witnesses.

Aaron W. Jabot, 34, was taken back to jail after the incident that left lawyer Fred Rench with a bloody hand injury. Judge John Hall and lawyers debated how to handle the outburst, then the trial continued with Jabot not in the courtroom.

Jabot is on trial on a felony assault charge that stems from an April 29, 2014 attack on lawyer Garfield Raymond in jail. He was in jail at the time for violating parole in a 2007 attempted robbery case. The parole violation had been filed after he allegedly stabbed two people in a Glens Falls bar days after his release from prison.

Friday, May 01, 2015


Haiku Friday: The Food You Wish You Didn't Love So Much

We all have that food-- the one we know is bad for us, but we love anyways.  Let's blog about that this week!  Here, I will go first:

Donut siren song
Calls out to me as I drive
I resist (sometimes).

Now it is your turn!  Just make it five syllable. seven syllables, five syllables and have some fun!

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