Monday, October 31, 2016


Happy Halloween!

And what better way to celebrate than with some great haiku from last Friday-- about the things that are really scary?

I loved what Anonymous did:

Chateau Avenue
Ghost lived in hall by kitchen
Creak, Slam! Goes the door.

Ghost rule: don't scare kids
But when little ones away...
Watch out! Here she comes!

Jill Scoggins offered this fear common to people our age (though not me-- the problem with having a very handsome father is that you never see yourself looking like him):

Picture on the wall.
Why, that’s my mother! Oh no,
wait, it’s a MIRROR.

And Steve brought a Minnesota edge to it all:'

Surly Roseville deer
Eye the people in the park
Is it a bloodthirst?

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Help Me Help a Good Guy Do Good Things!

This week on Thursday, I get to speak at the annual banquet for Twin Cities Christian Legal Aid, which is housed at First Covenant Church and is headed up by my friend, collaborator, and former student David Best. I really believe in David, and in his work with TCCLA.

You can pull up more information on the organization here (and contact them for details). Here is some of the basic 'deets:


Serving the poor, disabled and homeless by offering legal advice, limited assistance and spiritual counsel as well as referrals to Christian and other agencies in order to help individuals and their families become free of legal entanglements and become reconciled with God.

How We Operate

We are focused on serving those making 150% of the federal poverty guidelines or less. TCCLA primarily provides free advice on a one-time basis and referrals to attorneys that may be able to provide further assistance. 

Christian Identity

TCCLA is an independent 501(c)3 Christian organization, committed to reflecting the values of Jesus Christ and the historic teachings of the church. Each of our board members and volunteers sign a statement of faith.

Because of our Christian faith, we seek to maintain an atmosphere of love and respect for all people regardless of race, color, ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status. TCCLA does so out of a commitment to the rule of law and the tenets of the Christian faith. 


Saturday, October 29, 2016


Challenges and Hope

In the last week a lot has happened. On Wednesday, President Obama granted another 98 commutation petitions, including 9 submitted by the Clemency Resource Center that Rachel Barkow and I started at NYU.

The picture is bigger than that, of course, and a good description of that bigger picture was provided this week by Taylor Auten in the Brown Political Review-- you can read that here. There is a lot left to do.

There are good people working to make that happen. A week ago, I went to Maryland to participate in a retreat for the Braxton Institute, founded by my mentor Dr. Joanne Braxton. Like some others, we are starting to look at the deeper needs of those returning as citizens after long prison terms (among other potential projects). It is important work.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Haiku Friday: Truly scary things!

Halloween is coming-- our scariest holiday! So much of the stuff around Halloween, though-- candy, pumpkins, and Ken Bone-- aren't really very scary. 

So let's haiku this week about things that are really scary. You can use your imagination!

Here, I will go first:

Martin Van Buren:
I try not to judge hairstyles,
But OMG yow!

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: After Nov. 8, What Happens to the Republican Party?

This presidential election has gone poorly for Republicans. Many of them looked on aghast as Donald Trump defeated a number of accomplished and intriguing candidates to be their standard-bearer, and then recoiled again with each mistake and awful revelation.

Now, some pundits are predicting doom for the Republican party-- not just the loss of one or both houses of Congress, but a Whig-like crackup along the fracture lines that have become clearer over the past several years.

I think Trump will lose, badly, and that the Senate will shift to Democratic control. It won't be the end of the Grand Old Party, though; far from it. Instead, Republicans will look to the 2018 election when they will have built in advantages as 25 of the 33 seats up for grabs in the Senate are currently held by Democrats or Independents who caucus with them. Among these Democratic seats are slots in Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, and Montana, all of which have strong Republican tendencies.

But boy... those two years between the 2016 and 2018 elections are likely to be super-ugly. The Clinton administration will try to get legislation passed and judges confirmed while the window is open, and Republicans will try to obstruct things at every turn as they hold out for reinforcements in 2018. You think it was contentious under Obama? Just wait.

Am I wrong?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


The Very Small World

Before some kind of major presentation, I sometimes will get a new tie. That way I have something related to the event, and, you know, a tie.

I started doing this in the 90's, before my first 6th Circuit argument. I drove down to Cincinnati the night before, and went to a store downtown to get a tie. While I was looking them over, a well-dressed older man struck up a conversation and gave me advice on what tie to get. The next day, at the argument, I realized that the kindly man was Judge Damon Keith, who was on the bench in front of me.

Getting ready for today's tangle with Rich Sullivan at Harvard Law School, I headed over to J. Press, the venerable men's shop near Harvard. Rich and I were classmates in law school, and as I was looking over the ties the shop had NPR on-- and soon the store was full of the voice of Alex Whiting, another classmate who now teaches here at Harvard Law, opining expertly about the decision of some African nations to pull out of the International Criminal Court. 

And yeah, I got a tie...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


It's Ten Years for the Razor!

Yesterday, I realized that I somehow completely forgot to notice the 10-year anniversary of this blog, which began in September, 2006 with posts like this, usually referring to my experiences at Baylor and especially in teaching Practice Court (where all kinds of fascinating things happened).  It took me a while to figure out how to include photos, and when I did I went with things like this (feat. Todd Lake and I in matching taupe sweaters):

Originally, this blog followed on the impending demise of a prior Baylor blog, So The Bear Says, run by then-student Chris Fahrenthold. I loved the idea of writing every day, and it seemed like a good way to connect with my students outside of the classroom, as well.

And so, 10+ years later, I am still writing every day, and I love to do it. 

But where is that taupe sweater????

Monday, October 24, 2016


Right on, OsoGrande!

His haiku laid it out:

Trump: I renounce my
nomination. Hillary:
Me, too. Pence v. Kaine.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The Corrosion of Politics

I've been mulling over the third presidential debate and some conversations since then with people I respect. For people like me (and there are a lot of us), here is what has been disappointing about this campaign:

-- At its best, there is an aspect of humility and selflessness in our public servants and those who seek office. I didn't see a whit of this in either candidate this week as they talked, or very often at all during the campaign as a whole.

-- Here at the end, the poison in the air has gone beyond bad sportsmanship. The candidates won't shake hands, or even try? Really? Donald Trump questions the integrity of an election not yet held?

-- On the ground, many people seem to have made up their mind based of feelings rather than beliefs or principles: they "hate" one candidate or the other, or don't trust them, or pick up on some personal characteristic like hair (Trump) or clothes (Clinton). Gone are opinions rooted in, say, global warming or tax policy beyond the crudest level. 

-- It is fair and disheartening to expect that regardless of who wins, a plurality of the country will immediately hope that they fail spectacularly. We should never want that, for our leader to fail. Yet, that is what we get from politics rooted in feelings.

Is it fair to say that we have a spiritual crisis on our hands? It sure feels like it. Our nation has a soul, and we seem to be losing contact with it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


How wolves change rivers

I though this was fascinating, and you might think so too:

Friday, October 21, 2016


Haiku Friday: What you wish they had said...

When watching the debates, I found myself incessantly shouting out answers that I thought the candidates should give. I'm not sure that is very healthy, but it gave me something to do other than rip up pillows.

I'm sure everyone has their own idea of what they should have said. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

Secretly, Clinton
The truth is that I love you.
Ack! {pulls orange hair out}

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Please, let this end!

I'm so discouraged by this presidential race. 

Last week I got to go back to Waco and speak at my beloved church, 7th and James, and to several classes at Baylor. I saw many wonderful friends, and made a few new ones. It was a wonderful few days.

As I left, I realized that no one had really talked about the election in all the time I was there. Was that because Texas is a one-party state, or were people just being kind? Perhaps it was some of each. 

How do you feel?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Thanks, Canada! We needed that.

If I walked to the end of the block as a kid and looked over the lake, there it was: Canada. In the winter, you could skate there (and some people did). We watched the news on the CBC, and I learned the rules of hockey from "Peter Puck."

For the most part, Canadians are pretty nice. They are proving that now, as we going through an election cycle that is the equivalent of acid eating through our emotional superstructure:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Next week: A battle royal at Harvard Law!

I'm really looking forward to this! The trash talking has already begun, too: Judge Sullivan wrote that the poster accurately depicts my "puny" head compared to his.  

It will be a great event-- we have already done this at Yale, Penn, and St. Thomas, and each time I have learned something. Rich is not only an old friend but one of the people I most admire in criminal law. He did great things as a prosecutor, made true sacrifices as a public servant, and is a conscientious and principled judge.  

Monday, October 17, 2016


Clown poems

There was a bumper harvest of creepy clown haiku last week!

I kept reading MKS' piece, and wondering-- who shakes a clown's hand? Is that what you are supposed to do when you meet a clown? It was a strangely troubling image...

At Macy’s parade
Cousin made me shake clown’s hand
I cowered in fear. 

Most original poem? I would go with Anh Dep:

đạp thể dục IBIKE 8.2i
and xe đạp thể dục IBIKE 4000. 
Contact with me.

And finally, OsoGrande is back, and how!

Send in the Clowns, Don't
Bother, They're Here---in the Pres-
idential Campaign.


Sunday, October 16, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The Resolve

Last Sunday I gave the sermon at First Covenant Church here, but that was not my favorite part of the service. Not even close.

The music that day was led by Ezra Bartsch, who is pictured above. The music was wonderful (as it tends to be at that church), but there was this one, unforgettable moment. The group sang "Down to the River to Pray," with the last verse a cappella. First Cov is a "singing church"-- that is, the folks in the pews really have at it when there is a good song, and there are a lot of wonderful voices in the crowd. Dan and Holly Collison know how to construct a service that way.

At the end of the last verse it was so beautiful and warm-- a resolve-- that when we were done Ezra stepped back and laughed. It was joy in him, and I understood it; he had been part of a perfect moment. We don't get many of those.

The first sermon I gave at First Covenant, two or three years ago, I talked about Ronald Blount, a man serving life in prison for a small role in a crack business. I held up the letter he had written to me, and read from it. The people in that congregation had prayed for him, and for me.

Last Sunday, I got to tell them that Ronald Blount is on his way to freedom.

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted Isaiah: "He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." There is a wholeness to proclaiming the release of a captive in church, a resolve, a joy. How lucky we are!

Saturday, October 15, 2016


A week spent with heroes...

I got to spend this week with heroes in two states (Illinois and Texas).  I'll tell some of those stories in the next week.

This is Nancy Grayson, who is a hero in multiple ways. She is a creator-- an innovator and an entrepreneur and a creator of a better world in my old neighborhood. She created a great school (the Rapoport Academy) in a part of Waco that needed it, and now she is building businesses and homes in that same neighborhood.  There are few people I admire more. 

Friday, October 14, 2016


Haiku Friday: Creepy Clowns!

This is the worst Halloween-time development ever: Creepy clowns hanging around in the woods. 

Here is the deal: clowns were always creepy. This is not a new development. At the least, maybe now we will ask some kids how they feel about clowns before we just assume they will find them amusing and fun.

Let's haiku about clowns this weekend! Feel free to take some liberties with the theme. Here, I will go first:

Next to Kid-Catchers
(From Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang)
Clowns are scariest.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Trump Legacy

Donald Trump is probably the worst major-party candidate for President in my lifetime. I'm horrified by what he says and does-- it is like he is trying to have all of the scandals of an entire political career while he is running for president! He seems disinterested in the most important issues before us, and has bad (even dangerous) answers when he does engage.

Some people say (as Trump would put it) that it could drag the whole Republican party down.

I am not one of those saying "this is over," though. It's not. If this election season has taught us anything, it is not to believe that anything is certain.

If you really do think this contest is over, how will it affect the future of the Republican party?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


The Playoffs

Red Sox manager John Farrell (pictured here) led his team to a crushing defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Indians this week. Fittingly, they were defeated by the Indians on Indigenous Peoples Day, which might have been intentional.

Meanwhile, IPLawGuy's team, the Washington "Nationals," are doing a pretty good job against the Dodgers, which hopefully will put him in a better mood.

I'm on my way to Texas today, and folks there can't be too happy about the Rangers, who really stunk up the joint in being swept by the Blue Jays. I mean really-- you guys can't even beat Canadians. Sad.

Then there are the Cubs. I guess they are ok. What I am really waiting for, though, is the return of Steve Bartman. It's gotta happen, right? 

Here's hoping for a Cleveland-Chicago World Series, because some midwestern city will end up being very very happy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Talking and Writing

On Sunday, the Chicago Sunday Evening Club aired a discussion between David Dault and I on their show Things Not Seen.  You can hear the whole thing here. I love radio, and this was perhaps my favorite radio interview ever.  Because he was asking about things I had never been asked before, I talked about some things I have never talked about before (at least in the media).

Also, on Sunday the Waco Tribune Herald ran a piece of mine about healing our political culture after the base brutality of this election. You can read that one here.

And now... time to go back on the road! Tomorrow, I am off to Chicago to meet up with my good friend Craig Anderson and be a part of this great discussion:

Next up, Wednesday night I will be back in Waco to speak to my good friends at 7th and James Baptist Church... it's going to be quite a week!

Monday, October 10, 2016


A Latte love for fall

I think that Jill Scoggins spoke for many of us (if not all of us) in her haiku this week:

Pumpkin spice, I’ve had
enough! Good for lattes; not
so much on popcorn.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Four mercies

This morning I'm giving the sermon at First Covenant Church here in Minneapolis (810 South 7th Street, 9:30 AM). The text is Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy."

It's a tough passage in some ways; is it an offer of a quid pro quo, or something deeper?

I'll talk about four kinds of mercies that we can show:

-- forgiveness of those who are repentant
-- forgiveness of those who are not repentant
-- forgiveness of God
-- forgiveness of ourselves.

It's going to be quite a morning!

Saturday, October 08, 2016


What was wonderful this week....

On Thursday I was in DC at a meeting at the US Sentencing Commission (fun fact: they have their own flag!) when news came in that 102 more people received clemency from President Obama.

Here is the best part-- it wasn't that big a deal in the press. Unlike the first large batches, there was no rush explain what this meant or reaction from outraged opponents. It was just a government function operating as it should. That brought me great joy-- might this be "the new normal for clemency?"

And no, I don't think there was any causative link between my writing this on Tuesday and the grants coming on Thursday... that's just lucky timing.

Tomorrow I will be giving the sermon at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis (810 South 7th St., across from the new Vikings stadium) at 9:30. In part, we will be giving thanks for these newly free people. Please come!

Friday, October 07, 2016


Haiku Friday: The Food of Autumn

October is my favorite month. In part, I looooove the food of fall: apples, pumpkin pie, warm stuff on a cold morning...

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

Cold ice cream melting
Onto hot apple crisp, Oh!
Life is good today.

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

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday

I was going to write today about the vice-presidential debate, but the main take-away from that seems to be "Wow, those guys talk over each other a lot!

Instead, let's talk about the latest messiness at Baylor which turned into a spectacle spilling over to CBS' morning show yesterday. Earlier this week, all of the following happened (according to reports from the Waco Tribune-Herald and KWTX-TV):

-- Patty Crawford has been the Title IX coordinator at Baylor since 2014, charged with overseeing the University's response to sexual assaults.

-- She filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Title IX department, complaining that Baylor had taken away her authority. Specifically, she described Baylor's Reagan Ramshower as working against her.

-- Mediation took place. Baylor offered $1,550,000 to settle the complaint and  ensure that Crawford did not talk publicly about these events.

-- Mediation failed. Crawford quit her job and is already talking about what happened publicly. At the heart of her claims is the assertion that Baylor chose to "protect its brand" rather than properly address sexual assault claims.

My observation is this: If Baylor is paying (or offering people) $1.5 million to keep things out of the courts and the press, something very wrong has been going on. That money comes, one expects, from endowment money or tuition-- that is, from charitable donations people made to the school, or from the tuition money that families pay to the school. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Yesterday in DC...

Last night in DC, I gave a talk to a William and Mary group, and had the pleasure of having two of my most important mentors, Nkechi Taifa and Dr. Joanne Braxton, in the room. That's some pressure! I think that it went pretty well, though.

Just to get in the right frame of mind, I also wrote a commentary on clemency for The Hill-- you can read that here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Body cameras: New study shows a real affect

Yesterday, I talked to Josh Rosenthal at Channel 5 here about a surprising study out of Cambridge University in the UK, which looked to US and UK data to find that the use of body cameras by police reduce citizen complaints by about 93%.

That's a striking number, and one that should get the attention of communities across the country.

Monday, October 03, 2016


Light rain

I've noticed that nature topics don't draw much haiku interest, but still there were some stellar entries last week.

IPLawGuy offered this:

The Braves rotation
Spahn and Sain and pray for rain
Great baseball poem.

You can read the poem he refers to here.

Seraphim, meanwhile, gave us this, expressing a sentiment I totally agree with:

The best way to run
In a hard, pelting rain is
To yell like this: AAAIIIEEE!

Sunday, October 02, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Cheering for the team that is far behind

Even though I realize the moral ambiguities that go with it these days, I still love college football. I go to several games a year, and watch others on TV. When my favorite teams win, it makes me happier that it probably should.

A lot of times, though, my favorite teams don't win and sometimes they lose miserably. I was a loyal season ticket holder at Baylor when they were one of the worst teams in the BCS, and now I sometimes watch and cheer for schools (ie Carleton and Yale) that are just not very good this year.

When a team isn't very good, and the other team is scoring at will, people drift off. They usually do so quietly, and then don't come back the next game.

I don't though. I stay to the end and cheer for them anyways. There is a wistfulness to it, a deep blue, as you watch the players at the bench, the coaches kicking the turf.

It's good that God is eternal, and stays around. And, if Jesus is to be believed, God's favorites are the ones battered and bruised, still walking out to play another round on defense.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Wolverines! Badgers!

Today at 3:30 Eastern, the Wisconsin Badgers will play the Michigan Wolverines in a game that presents a first: never before have these two met when both were ranked in the Top 10.

I wonder, though... isn't a wolverine really a form of badger? They look an awful lot alike. They both have those three ridges on top of their heads...

The really sad part is that Michigan doesn't have a mascot to Wisconsin's awesome Bucky the Badger:

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