Thursday, March 31, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Something to love about the USA

Today I am in Washington, and this afternoon I will be speaking at the White House at the "Life After Clemency" briefing. Other speakers include Valerie Jarrett, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quinn Yates, and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston.

What is kind of remarkable is the context of this all. Yesterday, President Obama granted clemency to 61 individuals. That is a wonderful thing on its face; those 61 are going home. However, it is barely a scratch on the surface of the problem. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time talking to people who had petitions pending. They all had the same question, spoken or unspoken: "why not me?" Those conversations are heartwrenching.

The low number discouraged me. Sari Horwitz, an excellent Pulitzer-winning reporter at the Washington Post, asked me for a quote, and I gave her one that she used in her piece:

“Sixty-one grants, with over 9,000 petitions pending, is not an accomplishment to brag about,” said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and an advocate for inmates petitioning for clemency. “I know some of those still waiting, men who were grievously over-sentenced, who have reformed themselves, and never had a record of violence. My heart breaks for them, as their hope for freedom — a hope created by the members of this administration—slips away.” 

Yes, that's a pretty critical thing to say. Also, it looks like I might have piece in a prominent paper tomorrow that also will ask for more. And (as readers of this blog know) I have been critical of this administration in the past.

Yet, here is what is happening: This afternoon I will walk into the White House compound. I'll be given a blue pass with an "A" on it (if previous visits are any guide), and I'll talk to several administration officials-- the very ones I have criticized.  I'll be allowed to speak and be part of a discussion. And then I'll leave and be on my way.

No one is going to imprison me. No one will threaten me. No one will follow me furtively as I pass through Washington. None of that. All that will happen is that I will be heard, and hear from those with other views, right at the White House itself. Perhaps they will convince me I am wrong (it is possible), or I will convince them. And then I'll go home.

Isn't that just a stunning, wonderful thing? Thank God for America-- world, this is how you do it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Trump Burnout

Is anyone else getting burned out on hearing about Donald Trump?

I know that his run for president is important, and that he could do great or terrible things as president (depending on who is talking), and that he says something horrifying every week, but I find myself changing the channel when I hear his voice or even someone talking about him. It's just that it all has become... boring.

And maybe, maybe, that in the end will be the way the Trump candidacy ends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Happy Birthday...

... to my Aunt Betsy!


What to do when you are ill

Like the majority of the residents of the Minneapolis metropolitan area, I am a little sick. Something bad is going around, and it went right after me.

Here are my tips for dealing with illness:

1)  Identify a Sicky-Boy (or Sicky-Girl) shirt. Mine is red flannel, in the style favored by railroad brakemen in the 1890's. The function of the shirt is to soak up germs.

2)  Drink lots of ginger ale. It contains two ingredients (ginger and ale) that fight germs. Plus, it tastes good.

3) If you are suffering from a fever, try to remember your dreams and then use them as the basis for a Magical Realism novel.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Snakes and Spiders?

There was a lot of good haiku last week-- go check it out. I like where people went with the theme, and David Best even went beyond the theme to a more interesting place.

Intriguingly, IPLawGuy revealed that he is scared of snakes and spiders, which could come in handy in the future. Did you know that you can order a box of spiders over the internet? It's true. I checked.                                          

Sunday, March 27, 2016


The stone is rolled away

Today is Easter, one of the happiest and yet most complicated of holidays.  There are a lot of ways it can be happy (many of them secular), but the complications usually come from one question: What does it mean?

What does it mean that Jesus returned to life-- that is, to life on Earth-- after he died?

For some, it is a grand miracle that signals the divinity of Christ. That is, it is a literal sign from God about the meaning of this one man. For others, there is great symbolism in it, more important than the miracle itself.  The rebirth echoes the truths of Spring, the inescapable and remarkable fact that the world we have been given renews itself after the death of winter. In a place like Minnesota, that is particularly remarkable. Of course, Jesus did not live in Minnesota.

It's odd though... for me the symbols of the week that affect me most deeply are not the cross or the palm.  Instead they are the curtain and the stone.

First, the curtain. On Good Friday, at the moment of Jesus's death, the curtain in the Temple of Jerusalem tore from top to bottom. This was a particular curtain, too: the one that separated the place of God's presence from the world of men. Only the High Priests could go behind the curtain, and then only once a year. The curtain tore, giving us all access to the divine, to the presence of God.  How amazing is that?!

Second, the stone. When Jesus was placed in the tomb, a large stone was place in the entrance to seal the space.  The first sign that Jesus had risen was the sight of the stone rolled away-- too big a job for any one man.  

That stone is the door to a prison cell, opened once life was offered to all.

That image, of the cell door and the stone, is deep within me. This week is not like every other week. I organized a gathering in Washington for this Friday, where the schools doing clinical work will gather. On Thursday, at a different event, I will speak at the White House on the importance of clemency-- the opening of that prison door through an act of mercy.  I hope that this week will also see the President granting clemency to dozens of inmates, including some I have come to know and believe in.

But today, I will celebrate what is and what may yet be, curtains torn and stones rolled away.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Birdie Sanders

Friday, March 25, 2016


Haiku Friday: Where do you want to go?

Like Patient Bear, we must wait patiently for summer vacations to arrive. Now is the time, though, to dream them up and plan them, and that is half the fun.

Where do you want to go? Maybe you can't afford it, but where do you want to go?

Let's haiku about that this week.  Just tell us the place, and a bit about it.

Here, I will go first:

Me: London, England
I want to see what is new
And what's very old.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday 2: I guess Republicans have changed...

Here is part of the 1980 debate between George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, during the Republican primary. It presents a stark contrast to the debates we seen on the GOP stage this year.


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Fog of Trump

As time passes, it looks more and more likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. For about a year now, insiders have predicted a Trump implosion but that never came. As he gathers steam through the primaries, the Washington Post has become positively apoplectic, with multiple Trump Disaster articles featured at any given time.

I agree with Trump about some things, like trade policy and avoiding foreign wars, but his appeal to xenophobia and racism is beyond troubling:  it is a terrible development in our political culture.  If he is the nominee, he will most likely lose in the general election if current polling is any indication.

What is intriguing to me is why Republican insiders are so riled up about Trump success. They sometimes claim to be appalled by his racial appeals, but versions of that have appeared in Republican campaigns for the past several decades (and, it should be pointed out, in Democratic campaigns as well, at times).  Certainly, for some Republicans (including some of those who post here) this is a genuine and sincere concern.  For others like Mitt Romney or George Bush, it rings a little hollow.

So what do these insiders fear from Trump?

1)  They fear that he isn't very conservative

They are probably right about that.  Trump's history doesn't reveal either a history of conservatism or an identifiable moment of conversion.

2)  He diverges from traditional views on free trade

Both right and left have worked over the past several administration to pursue freer global trade, with particularly important moves in that direction being taken by Presidents Clinton and Obama. By calling the effects of free trade into question, Trump challenges a conventional wisdom in both parties-- and the interests of many large corporations.

3)  He diverges from traditional views on foreign intervention

The divide between Ted Cruz-- who would "carpet bomb" foreign cities-- and Trump on this issue is striking. Whether he realizes it or not, Trump's position on this replicates President Obama's.

4)  He is so rich himself that he won't be beholden to big donors

Like the others, this is rooted in truth.  Of course, big donors dismiss this idea, while Trump supporters hold this up as a virtue of their candidate-- and the Trump supporters are closer to the truth.

So what do you think? What happens next? Will the Stop Trump movement have an effect before or at the Republican Convention?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Update from Detroit!

It's no secret that I love the writing my dad has been doing over at his "Upbeat" blog.  The photos are as great as one would expect, but the text is what surprises me. Who knew?

This week he tells a great story; one that is gentle and true. The hero is Willie Jones, the manager of the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Here is part of it:

A week or so ago a pretty full house was settling in to see one of Detroit’s legendary jazz-men, George “Sax” Benson. As showtime was approaching,  George was missing. The piano player didn’t know where he was, the drummer said he was coming on his own and the bass player said oh…oh…. this is unlike George. All eyes turned to Willie. Willie will certainly handle this. Everything will be all right. The lights dimmed which is the signal to us that the musicians are on their way to the bandstand. Happy clinks of knives and forks on porcelain mixed with laughter as the celebrants  waited for the music to start. No one including Willie knew where George was or if he would be there.

I watched in semi-panic as events unfolded. I looked at Willie who looked as calm as our old cat lying in front of the fireplace. He reminded me of those other kids that had really studied before a test. Nonplussed, unshaken, his attitude was calming and reassuring.

Whew, no problem, things will be alright, and they were. It turns out that George got waylaid in traffic and did arrive late. Willie had the piano trio go on until George arrived, and then George played an extra 30 minutes making this a great night for those who came to hear this master of the music. George’s unbridled joy in playing to an appreciative and understanding audience was on full display.

Willie’s lesson for all of us is that old saying “Opportunity seldom rises with blood pressure.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


A Book You Should Buy

A few days ago, I suggested pre-ordering my book, Prosecuting Jesus.  Today, I'm going to suggest ordering another upcoming book, Ron Fournier's remarkable memoir of parenting, Love That Boy.

Regular readers of this blog know that Ron and I go way back; when we were 17 we co-edited the school paper and ran near-identical times on the cross-country and track teams.  We took the bus to Iowa City to attend the Iowa Young Writer's Studio, collecting adventures along the way.  We have stayed in touch even as our paths diverged and then converged again, and lately we have even collaborated.  Now, it seems, we are publishing memoirs in the same year.

Though, it might be that his is better. I have read Love That Boy, and was deeply affected by it. It's not a re-telling of Ron's remarkable career as a journalist, but rather focuses on his role as a parent. In particular, it lays out some of the joys and challenges of raising his third child and only son, Tyler, who has Asperger's Syndrome.  I had the pleasure of reading the book a few months ago.

Too often, these stories turn into a celebration of the virtue of the parent and a lament for the troubles he or she faced. There is none of that here, as those who know Ron's writing would well know. He is a rare commentator in that he admits his own mistakes and frailties up front, yet is fearless in confronting the powerful.  The same spirit animates this more personal story arc, in that he describes his stumbles and errors as part of a richer tale that he knows is grander than himself. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are characters in the book-- important ones-- but not as important as Tyler or the towering figure of Ron's father, a Detroit cop who made sense in a time and place (Detroit in the 1970's) that often lacked those figures. I knew Ron's dad, and he made a strong impression on me: when I thought of a police officer, I thought of him, and when I went into law enforcement it was in my mind that I was going to be working in league with people like Mr. Fournier. Sometimes, that was true.

Ron Fournier could sit around and tell war stories about famous people for days, if he was that kind of person. He's not, though, and it is the human scale of this very human story that makes it important and real and moving. It's not about a famous guy and the people he met. It's about a kid with some issues and a dad with some issues, and that's pretty much the deal with us all when the truth is laid bare.

So, go ahead and buy it.

Monday, March 21, 2016


IPLawGuy's insight...

Yes, I approve of his haiku:

Rebound. That I know
But can Taurean explain
The infield fly rule?

Taurean probably can't, but this guy is trying:

If a rule needs that much explaining, it probably isn't very directive....

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The Next Book

My next book, Prosecuting Jesus, is being published by Westminster/John Knox and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  It's about the experience of putting on the Trial of Jesus in 11 states, and the way it changed me and some of the people around me.

It feels both weird and self-centered to have written a memoir; I'm self conscious about that.  I hope it does not come off as some grander version of My Book About Me.

One thing the publisher was willing to do with this book is include photos, and there are several at the start of the chapters. Among others, IPLawGuy and Katherine Darmer are depicted, as are Bob and Mary Darden.  I had put them in the manuscript originally as kind of a visual placeholder or centerboard, but I am very glad they have stayed there.  

One theme of the book is that I tend to believe in things that I can see. That is a challenge to faith, where we are often taught or expected to believe in things that are unseen. The resolution of that conflict is something it took a long time to work through-- but resolved in an instant once the ground had been laid bare. That is sometimes how important realizations happen, isn't it? We wait and think and ponder, and then, when we don't expect it, the answer is there.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


What I am listening to these days...

Some Stevie:

Some Nina Simone:

Some Aretha:

And Sly and the Family Stone:

Friday, March 18, 2016


Haiku Friday: Stumped

First of all, Yale beat Baylor yesterday in the NCAA tournament. I'm not quite sure how, but they did!  And after the game, this happened:

At least Taurean Prince wasn't stumped (at least for long) by the question.  But, the rest of us have been, at one time or another. Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

Driving test stumper:
Tester won't put on seat belt.
Yelling "I'm too fat!"

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

p.s.-- if you want, you can also haiku about March Madness. Because that's always fun...

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Problem with "Fighting for Us."

Since she started using it, I have really been bothered by Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan, "Fighting for Us."

The main reason it bothers me is that it somehow manages an internal contradiction in the course of just three words. "Fighting" is oppositional; it means you are fighting against something or someone. "Us," though, is inclusional, wrapping a ribbon around everyone.  Of course, that is assuming she is using "us" to mean everyone-- I am sure that is what she would say. Or perhaps, she would say "us" is the middle class, a category into which nearly everyone in America, from an unemployed janitor to someone paid $600,000 for a speaking fee, would include themselves.

So, is she "fighting," or is she unifying? Given that there is a certain zero-sum quality to Democratic positions (i.e., we help the poor by taxing the rich), it is hard for Clinton to say with credibility that a rising tide lifts all boats-- that is a Republican line.

In the end, I hate this slogan because it does not mean anything at all.

And, this, too:  It runs too close to truth, which is also three words.  An honest banner before Clinton (or Trump, or Rubio, or Cruz) would say this: Fighting for Me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Some thoughts on Mr. Trump

A few days ago, I posted a piece at Huffington Post on the interesting link between Donald Trump and some Christians-- both Evangelicals and others. I hope that you will read the whole thing, but here is part of my argument in that article:

Listening to a Trump speech recently, I was struck by the way that he drew a circle around his audience and talked about "us." Trump cultivated that dynamic every time he starts a sentence with "What the people in this room understand...." He drew a clear in/out line, and defined his followers as being "in." On the outside of the group were the other Republican candidates and their deluded followers, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

It shouldn't surprise us that this works. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that sometimes we want the bully to like us-- we want to be in his group of friends, laughing furtively at others. Most of us remember how easily the person a bully taunted sometimes became a follower.

Unfortunately, this tracks the dynamic relied on by too many Christian churches. They attract and keep adherents by describing a hostile world and a Biblical authority that is useful primarily to define others as evil. Liberal churches do this by demonizing fundamentalists, while conservative churches do it by describing the world outside of their walls as the poisoned domain of homosexuals, liberals, and others who they contend will not be found in heaven. Just like Trump, they draw clear in/out lines, and define themselves and their followers as part of the sacred zone within.

That view is true to neither the Bible nor the Constitution. The Bible describes one God over all humankind, and the Constitution begins with "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...." The drawing of in/out lines is contrary both to what Christ taught and the nature of democracy. The propensity of Trump and other politicians to not only draw those lines but build them into walls is the sad end-game of the authoritarian streak in our parallel twin tracks of faith and politics. We can and must do better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Sorry, IPLawGuy!

So, sure, everybody makes mistakes that they regret later. I am no exception. It didn't seem like such a bad idea to try out my light saber moves on IPLawGuy during our ski trip last week, but it was.  Sorry, man.  Also, I sent some balloons to your semi-private room at the hospital, but I think they put them on the old lady's side.  Sorry again.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Floor hockey in the basement...

Of all the haiku ever written by someone else, this one was perhaps closest to my own experience:

Floor hockey and fights
Leave many holes in the walls
Mom sure will be pissed!

Was I actually playing floor hockey with Gavin? Probably.

Meanwhile, Renee went either off-topic or had a lot going on in the basement:

A Rocket Man from
Childhood. He just wanted to
Work on space flight

And he did. He married
His one true love and became
A dad. He listened

To you with his whole
Being. He was delighted
By who you were. Different.

The Boy Who Loved Science
Couldn't be saved by it. Cancer.
Such a lovely man. Gone.

And I want to visit this basement!:

Trapeze on ceiling
Over mattress on the floor
Swing, let go, fly, bounce!

Poor Christine-- she doesn't have one!

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Sunday Reflection: A Faith That Troubles

I once asked a minister what in the Gospels troubled him. He answered that he found none of it troubling. I tried to clarify the question, by telling him about my own discomfort with the fact that Jesus knew his followers had swords at the time of the arrest, but did not prevent the violence that happened there. He reiterated that he wasn't troubled by anything in the Gospels.

That exchange has, well, troubled me for months. It seems inconceivable that anyone could have reconciled everything that happened in the Gospels with their own beliefs and experiences. Jesus's teachings are radical and deeply challenging: He taught that the poor were blessed and the rich almost completely barred from heaven, that people should leave their families to follow him, that we are not to resist an evildoer, and that those who remarry after divorce are sinful adulterers. And that's not even the things he implied or just suggested through parables-- those were straight-up directives.

Perhaps I am wrong, though, to see constant challenge in the Christian faith. I'm not trained in theology, and I certainly know an awful lot of good people who don't see their faith as challenging their lives and comforts. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Things I would change

Today's rant is going to be about things that just should be different-- you know, the things around us that make no sense.

1) Why do faucets and (especially) the controls in a shower say which is hot and which is cold? It seems like that is a very basic function of the machine-- letting the user know what they are doing. Yet, the international plumbing syndicate has apparently decreed that no plumbing controls should be marked for this.

2)  Why do television controls have to be so complex? Most people I know have to use at least two different remotes to make their television work. Why isn't there just a button on the remote that turns the television on and connects it to the cable?  I am looking right now at a remote in a friend's house that has buttons for "SEN," "sync menu," "jump" and other mystifying functions. If one had to guess, it would be that "SEN" lets you watch the Senate on C-Span, "sync menu" makes the TV work with everything else, and "jump" makes either the television or the remote leap into the air.

3)  Why does stuff from Costco come in packaging designed to prevent you from getting to the stuff you bought? I had to use heavy-duty scissors, a serrated knife, and a small saw to get to some sunglasses last week. Seriously.

Add your own frustrations in the comments section...

Friday, March 11, 2016


Haiku Friday: Games you play in the basement

Hmmm... I suppose this topic could go several ways. Do with it as you will.

Here is mine:

My friend's basement prize:
Pong! Premordial gaming
Herky-jerky dots.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Razor Lays Odds on Each Candidate's Chances!

With both races still in play, who is leading overall? The Razor makes some uneducated guesses:

Clinton: 51% chance of being elected president

To become president, Hillary Clinton must do two things. First, she must defeat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Second she must beat a Republican candidate in November. The first of these may prove to be the more difficult, as Sanders came back to life by winning Michigan this week.  Still, Sanders faces an uphill battle, largely because of the anti-democratic force of superdelegates who were pledged to Clinton months ago. Given the battering the Republican party has inflicted on itself, it is hard not to see Clinton as the favorite against any of the Republicans.

Trump: 19% chance of being elected president

Trump had a good week, and is by all accounts the favorite to win the Republican nomination. The most probably way he would lose the nomination is through a convention battle-- an event that is still a very real possibility. In a general election, though, his negatives would overwhelm his chances.

Sanders: 18% chance of being elected president

Hillary Clinton is likely a much tougher challenge for Sanders than Rubio, Trump, or Cruz would be. Kasich, though, because of his relatively moderate views and experience, would be a bigger challenge. Sanders still has a chance to get past Clinton-- and if he does, it will be a very interesting fall!

Kasich: 6% chance of being elected president

I'm stumped as to why Republicans didn't flock to this guy as an alternative to Trump. At a brokered convention, though, he would be able to argue that he fought the fight, and in a general election would emerge as a compelling figure.

Paul Ryan: 3% chance of being elected president

Ryan may well emerge from a brokered convention. If he does, he could be a formidable opponent to either Clinton or Sanders.
Ted Cruz: 2% chance of being elected president

His colleagues can't stand him. He appeals to a narrow band of very conservative voters. He is unlikely to be chosen in a brokered convention, and he is very unlikely to avoid that by racking up enough delegates to win outright. In a general election, he would be blown out like Goldwater.

Marco Rubio: 1% chance of being elected president

What a terrible week for him-- he received no delegates at all in the four contests on Tuesday. So, forget it. His only chance is to win Florida and then, for some reason, catch fire. Not likely. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Presenting... the 2016 Minnesota HS Boys Hockey Hair Team!!!

Yeah, I know there were primaries yesterday... but let's focus on what is really important: The Minnesota All-Star hockey hair team is out!

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Packing List

Tomorrow I leave for my annual ski trip with IPLawGuy.  This year we are going to Colorado, and will be staying in Frisco. In the past, these trips have been an adventure of one kind or another.

It's time to pack, so I need your help. Every year I forget something important. Below is a list of what I have stacked up so far. Peruse it, and then add to the comments section everything I might have forgotten.

Ski Trip Packing List

Rubber "registered trademark" stamp
Gummi worms
Chicken thighs (4)

That's all I have so far. IPLawGuy was in charge of renting the car... I just hope he doesn't get the one he chose last year:

Monday, March 07, 2016


Haiku o' Politics!

Excellent job, Gavin:

I can't help but think
Is this the best you can do?
These clowns are A-List?

Liars. Psychopaths.
Your years of hard-selling fear
Brought us to this point.

And now you worry
The monster you created
Will kill your party

You miss the point, friend
Who cares about your party?
Your time, I think... DONE.

Hate? Anger? Hard sells.
You go the way of the WHIGs
Forgotten, not missed.

Something new will rise
To fill the empty void left
Don't know who or what

I hope they bring love,
Candor, equality, hope,
Humility, too.

My country needs that
Is this the best WE can do?
I really hope not. 

And, in a different vein, Renee:

Candidates? For what?
The one with the wolfish nose
Carries own made Bible

Could he be running
For Big Bad Boss Grand Inquisitor?
All the Maidens to keep track of for God!

And, for mastery of one-word haiku lines, Christine!

Only one word fits
when describing Donald Trump

Sunday, March 06, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The drive

Like the Nuns on the Bus, I am a person who needs a good road trip now and then. I find myself longing for it every once in a while, in fact.

It may seem trite to describe it as a spiritual need, but I think that it really is exactly that. I've noted before the many times that Jesus took off by himself, and his travels with the apostles were really just one big road trip.  

For me, there is a sense of place that comes with it, ironically. I know exactly where I am-- I am in the car, going someplace. I'm kinda hard to reach, and I am ok with that. I encounter people, however briefly, that I don't know, and that is not normal for me. I suppose in a way it both comforts me and shakes me up a little, and that is a good combination.

It was while driving on a long trip that I got the ideas for both books I have written, among other things.  Perhaps it is that... quiet.  

How about you? Do you need a good road trip now and then?

Saturday, March 05, 2016


From my student, Ronnie Santana...

Friday, March 04, 2016


Haiku Friday: The candidates!

We are all thinking about it… so why not haiku about it?  You can pick any candidate, even those who have dropped out. Here are some possible choices:

Lindsay Graham
Rand Paul
Martin O'Malley
Lincoln Chaffee
And dozens more!

Here, I will go first...

Bernie believes it
I'm not sure about the rest
Are they fakin' it?

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

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday II: Really, GOP? Mitt Romney?

It appears that the Republican establishment has decided to marshal their forces for one last stand against Donald Trump. Their new spokesperson for this project? Mitt Romney. 

I suppose that tells you in a heartbeat how little comprehension (or cohesion) there is among the people referred to (probably too broadly) as the Republican establishment. Trump's appeal to so many voters is that he isn't Romney-- that is, he isn't someone who will say what handlers or polls say is popular. He says whatever he wants (and a lot of what he says is just awful, but awful thoughts can be popular).

The best one can say is that Romney is an expert at losing elections you should win, so perhaps he is going to apply that knowledge to Trump.


Political Mayhem Thursday with Guest Blogger Publius

Over the past three weeks, I have allowed some of my wise and insightful friends to guest-blog about the presidential election. Waco Farmer opined on the state of the race, and then IPLawGuy gave a very reasonable argument in favor of John Kasich (who remains surprisingly unsuccessful, to my mind, given his experience). Then, last week, my dad weighed in convincingly on the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.  This week, I am taking the unusual step of allowing someone to guest-blog anonymously.  This friend, though, both has a good reason (work in the public sector) to remain anonymous, and is remarkably even handed. 

This may well turn out to be the worst general election in my lifetime. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both terrible candidates. They are inauthentic, self-obsessed, speak in generalities, and are prickly and defensive.  Their flaws have been ignored for reasons I cannot understand. Yet, they both are products of parties that have lost their way. A pox on both of their houses!

Let's begin with "Hillary," as she seems to want to be known. I suppose this is to humanize her, but the attempt is as manufactured as everything else about her (except her face-- to her credit, she seems to have avoided plastic surgery).  The only other candidate to try this first-name gambit was Jeb!, and it came off as silly.

The Clintons, in whole, are so compromised by big money, so saturated in scandal, so bereft of a moral compass, that is surprising that they are still in business. Hillary seems shocked-- shocked!-- when people question her taking $650,000 from Goldman Sachs as "speaking fees." I think she is genuinely shocked, because in her world taking huge sums of money in exchange for influence is simply the way that the world works.  Bernie Sanders' almost-whispered critique is exactly right: how can someone take that much money, personally, and not be corrupted? It defies everything we know about human nature.

Yet the Democrats have set the table for the return of the Clintons for over a decade. Hillary became, almost magically, the Senator for a state she had not yet really moved to (remember, she was elected in November of 2000, when she was, in fact living in Washington, DC, in the White House).  Then, in some remarkable stroke of luck for her presidential candidacy, she was able to burnish her foreign policy credentials by become Secretary of State in 2009.  What luck!  These two experiences, which arrived on butterfly wings at just the right time, are held out as her vaunted "experience." I suppose that compared to lightweight first-term senators like Obama, Cruz, and Rubio, it is relatively significant, but does not compare to a number of previous presidents, good and bad. Johnson? Ford? Even George H.W. Bush had much more experience.

And now, for reasons that are equally mysterious, labor seems to fawn over a candidate dedicated to trade deals like NAFTA, and African-Americans are in thrall to someone who supported nearly every recent federal initiative that has hurt black people.  How does this happen?

Of course, she will probably win.

That is because Republicans have chosen Donald Trump, or at least seem poised to do so. That is, Republican voters are; the Republican intelligentia seems mortified.  I can't imagine why, though, since Trump represents everything they have been about for the past decade, which is being against everything. Republicans have had no interest whatsoever in actually governing lately. Instead, they are interested in opposing whatever the other side might come up with. Were Obama to simply take a Republican proposal and make it his own, Republicans would stand in protest and scream in outrage at the President's proposal. In fact, they have done just that in some specific instances, including cap-and-trade and some aspects of the ACA.

Having made outrage their principle value, Trump is the candidate that best embodies it.

So why are the power players upset?  Perhaps because they know they cannot control the dialogue once and if Trump is elected.

What can be done?

Democrats can and should demand integrity.

Republicans can stop embracing obstreperousness as their principle virtue, starting with the naming of a new Supreme Court justice.

And we voters can listen to whoever else emerges.

-- Publius

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


I went a-caucusing!

Last night was a great time to enjoy a little democracy! We had our caucuses here in Minnesota, where people in a neighborhood gather to pick their delegates to a convention who then elect delegates to another convention, or something like that.  It felt much more important, somehow. A kid who just turned 18 gave a speech on a resolution. An old lady hooted with joy when it was announced that Hillary Clinton had won the room.  In the end, for some reason, we all clapped.

One of the things we did was sort through candidates for state rep. The candidates (the incumbent, a stay-at-home mom, and a somewhat manic IP lawyer) came through and gave little speeches, and then we voted by standing in one corner or another. It was kind of like a school council election for grown-ups. 

I found the whole thing thrilling.  

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Hillary has a plan for Donald Trump

A fascinating story in the New York Times revealed the Clinton camp's planning for a general election against Donald Trump. In short, it will be a "campaign against bigotry" that will reveal the dark meaning of some of what Trump says. Certainly, Trump has provided plenty of fodder for such an argument.

But... um.... isn't that exactly what Jeb Bush's plan was?

At any rate, the money quote in the article was from Matthew Dowd:

“Hillary has built a large tanker ship, and she’s about to confront Somali pirates,” said Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, who is now an independent.

Of course, we aren't to the point of nominating either yet. Tonight I will go caucus at a local middle school-- something I am very much looking forward to!

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