Monday, April 30, 2018


Two great haiku

Wow-- two of my favorite poets really did some good work last week, on the theme of "there is only one."

Who wouldn't love this from Jill Scoggins?:

He made a scratch pie.
I swooned. My soul mate doth cooks!
There is only one.

And this from CTL?"

Firsts are singular.
First kiss, love, first broken heart.
There is only one.

Sunday, April 29, 2018


Sunday Reflection: What comes first?

I recently stumbled across an unusual article about my former neighbors (and fellow Wacoans of the Year) Chip and Joanna Gaines. The writer, Daryl Austin, pretty much doesn't buy the Gaines' claim that they put family first, given all that they have going on:

No matter how rich and famous, we are all limited by the same 24 hours in a day. You cannot do all they’ve done (or even a fraction of it) and still have any real time left over for family. Frankly, I wonder where they even find the time to brush their teeth, let alone spend quality, one-on-one time with each child daily.

I disagree. 

Of course, I will concede that anyone opens themselves up to charges of hypocrisy when they announce a rank-order of their priorities (even if that listing is "For God, for Country, and for Yale). Life is complicated, and often hard to see from the outside of any one life, relationship, or family. And we all do things that honor one value more than others at different times.

There is a way, though, in which I think the Gaines's accomplishing a lot is the epitome of good parenting. Kids learn a lot more from what they see adults do than they learn from what adults say. I know that is true of what I learned from my parents-- they instilled values by showing us how they played out in real life. My mom didn't give me one-on-one time filled with speeches about how we are responsible for others in our community, but I saw her go off to do exactly that--help people in our community-- all the time. That probably meant much more.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


The Trump Interview: Analysis

I thought this was pretty interesting:

Friday, April 27, 2018


Haiku Friday: There is only one!

Driving along in Santa Fe yesterday on my way back from Meow Wolf, I found myself behind a Jeep with a spare tire cover that depicted the American flag along with the slogan "There is only one!"

"Damn right!" I thought. "We're not like those other countries with a bunch of different flags!"

Except, we kind of are. Each state has its own flag, varying from elegant to stupid, plus there are a bunch of people who think the Confederate battle flag is "their flag." Ugh. Actually, there probably is not another country out there with quite so many competing flags.

Still, "There is only one" seems like it could be a pretty good haiku topic (plus, it is five syllables. Magic!).

Here, I will go first:

Who's a good dog? Who?
Yes, you are a good dog! Yes!
There is only one.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Political Mayhem Thursday: Who should serve?

Right now, the Trump cabinet is a mess. Several members have come under fire for sloppy procedures (at best), while some others are viewed as simply incompetent. (Others, of course, have performed admirably). There have been, and will be, a lot of vacancies.

Which brings us to a key question: who should take these jobs, if offered? Is it fair to expect someone who has a lot to risk to serve their country right now in a position of leadership?

Imagine this: You have a good friend you had known for decades. She has climbed to the top of her field, and has a great, well-paid job. She is a Republican, but was a vigorous supporter of John Kasich who became a reluctant supporter of Trump after Kasich dropped out.

Now, she is offered a cabinet-level job in the Trump administration. She would have to give up her great job and move her family to DC if she takes it.

What do you advise her to do?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Blah blah blah

So, here is the video from Monday's CNN talk. Thanks to Jill Scoggins for locating it! You need to go up to about 22:15 to get to my segment:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Last night on CNN

I can't find the video (they have to have that somewhere, right?), but last night I was a guest on Don Lemon's CNN show, to talk about clemency. It was fascinating, but a little weird.

It's something I've done before, but have never gotten used to. Because I'm in a remote location (the WCCO studios here in Minneapolis), I don't actually sit in a studio with the hosts and other guests. Instead, I'm in a booth in front of a green screen. The weird part is that I can't see the other people on the show-- there is no monitor to look at, for example. You are simply looking into the camera, alone in this little room. It gives me some empathy for those guests who sit there silently for a while, or who have that deer-in-the-headlights look. There are none of the visual cues we usually look for in conversation to rely on.

I've always found it fun to hang around that studio, though. Keith Ellison and Richard Painter were passing through last night, too, doing remote interviews for other shows.

With the time I had, I tried to do something good-- steer the conversation towards people who are seeking clemency but who lack wealth and connections. It worked, at least a little bit, I think...

Monday, April 23, 2018


Young Americans

I kinda needed to hear something positive, and I got it... first from Amy:

Friends were shot in school.
Now they're waking us all up,

Young Americans.

And then from Jill Scoggins:

Worried about the
world? I’m not. Each day I see
Young Americans.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Sunday Reflection: On the Good Shepherd

In many churches today, the readings will feature the passage from John where Jesus describes "the Good Shepherd." I'm giving a little sermon on that today, in fact (more on that later in the week).

Back in Waco, my friend Blaine McCormick got interested in shepherds and what they really do. Since we lived in the middle of Texas, there were actually some around to talk to, too. My conversations with him really connected me to what Jesus was alluding to-- actually people in the countryside. 

I've always been fascinated by their tool, the shepherd's crook. It was that curved hook at the end, which is used to hook around the neck of a wayward sheep when all else fails, that has really intrigued me.

In thinking about this passage, I keep coming back to the shepherd's crook. I would imagine that the good shepherd does not have to use it much-- he is able to understand and influence the movements of the sheep without forcing them physically to do this or that.

And isn't that it, really-- the core of what makes a good shepherd, in reality or metaphorically? It means that influence and the power of knowledge combine with the will of the sheep to displace the need to force anyone to do anything. It is a description of the follower and God, as Jesus intended it to be heard, I think.

In the earthly realm, I know some leaders like that, too-- the ones who do not have to use the crook. Now I admire them all the more.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Writing, writing, writing...

Being done with the casebook (and the Teacher's Manual for the casebook) has freed me up to wade into short-form writing, which I really enjoy.

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran my piece on clemency (spoiler alert: I'm for it), and tomorrow I have a piece about the Prince investigation in the Star-Tribune here. I might have a piece in the Waco Tribune-Herald, too, but I haven't heard about that one...

Plus, I've been writing tests all week. It's hard to do (at least for me). This year's tests will feature all of my favorite recurring characters:

Glorbin Dandyport
Rory Ryan
Rink Allegro
Bob McBurger
Larry Bates

Further, affiant sayeth not.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Haiku Friday: Young Americans

We're going to do something  a little different this week. Instead of the usual "total freedom" thing on Haiku Friday, this time I'm going to require that either the first or the third line of your Haiku be "Young American" or "Young Americans." It's five syllables, so it works! And I think it will take people in a lot of different directions.

Here, I will go first:

They went to the beach
For this: To take back Europe
Young Americans

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

[and speaking of Young Americans, the video above (from 1975) features David Sanborn on sax and Luther Vandross as a backup singer]

Thursday, April 19, 2018


PMT: Remember Puerto Rico? Er, no, we didn't

At the bottom of the screen yesterday, I noticed a little story about Puerto Rico. Well, not so little, really: It was reporting that while still struggling to restore power to the island after the  devastation of  hurricane Maria-- which occurred seven months ago-- an accident led to the entire island being plunged into darkness. 

Several parts of this country have been adversely affected by storms in the last decade. But nothing has equaled the failure of the federal government to address the mess that Maria left behind in Puerto Rico. To really understand all that happened in the two weeks after the hurricane, I recommend this fascinating timeline from The Atlantic.  The longer story, though, is important, too-- and troubling. Power wasn't substantially restored even after 181 days, according to the Washington Post. And more recently, we just stopped paying much attention.

And by "we," I mean me, too.

This should be the basic blocking and tackling of government, far more important than the shiny objects that seem to have captured all of our attention, including whatever stripper is in the news today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


The Cohen-Hannity Connection

As if things weren't weird enough...

On Monday, Judge Kimba Wood (SDNY) insisted that lawyers for Trump lawyer Michael Cohen release the identity of Cohen's mysterious third client (the other two being Trump and RNC official Elliot Brody, who used Cohen to negotiate a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy Bunny he had impregnated).  And it was... drum roll... Sean Hannity, the head Trump cheerleader over at Fox News. 

Once that came out, Hannity said some weird things, including:

-- "Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter."
-- "I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees."
-- "I assumed those conversations were confidential."

Like Trump, Hannity seems to have no idea how attorney-client privilege and lawyer confidentiality works. They seem to assume that privilege and a duty of confidentiality magically attaches to conversations with some guy (and they seem to work only with guys) who is a lawyer. 

But... no.  Attorney-client privilege actually only attaches when, well, a person is a client of the attorney (or, sometimes, involved in a discussion preliminary to becoming a client). It's really all there in the name of the privilege. Hannity and Trump seem to think it is Attorney/Guy-he-is-talking-to-at-the-moment privilege, but that's not right.

Hannity prattling on about how he is NOT a client of Cohen (the first two statements above) should have tipped him off that the privilege and a duty of confidentiality might not apply. 

Attorney-client privilege and a lawyer's ethical duty of confidentiality are related concepts. Even aside from statutory restrictions,  lawyers have an ethical duty to keep certain confidences about information they received from a client-- but those, too, are defined as existing within the context of an actual attorney-client relationship. It doesn't come just from one of the people being a lawyer. 

If you are curious, I have pasted in below the relevant New York Rule of Professional Responsibility:

RULE 1.6.
Confidentiality of Information
(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly reveal confidential information, as defined in this Rule, or use such information to the disadvantage of a client or for the advantage of the lawyer or a third person, unless:
  1. (1)  the client gives informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(j);
  2. (2)  the disclosure is impliedly authorized to advance the best interests of the client and is either reasonable under the circumstances or customary in the professional community; or
  3. (3)  the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).
“Confidential information” consists of information gained during or relating to the representation of a client, whatever its source, that is (a) protected by the attorney-client privilege, (b) likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client if disclosed, or (c) information that the client has requested be kept confidential. “Confidential information” does not ordinarily include (i) a lawyer’s legal knowledge or legal research or (ii) information that is generally known in the local community or in the trade, field or profession to which the information relates. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Seriously-- do not fly Sun Country!

Back in September of last year, I wrote about how Sun Country Airlines (a local outfit here in Minnesota) was preparing to downgrade customer service and become a Spirit Airlines-style discount carrier. The predictable results are becoming evident, and yesterday's Star-Tribune described one particularly horrifying event that reflects the customer-last culture the new owners are cultivating:

Heather Garnett of Minneapolis and her family were among hundreds of Minnesota travelers whose flights home from Los Cabos, Mexico, were canceled Saturday because of the snow.

But they were doubly stranded when they learned that Sun Country Airlines had ended its season Saturday and had no more flights — outbound or returning — from Los Cabos.

Other passengers who were supposed to head home from Mazatlan were in the same boat. The airline’s website shows its next flight to or from Los Cabos on June 29; no flights at all are listed for Mazatlan.

Unhappy passengers were venting their frustration on the airline’s Facebook page and Twitter account Sunday. The Eagan-based carrier said the flights were the last of the season so “we do not have another flight to reaccommodate passengers on.”

It also said the passengers will receive a full refund for the return portion of their flight: “Flights will need to be purchased on another carrier. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

The story went on to describe exactly what this meant for the passengers who were stranded in Mexico:

The Garnetts and their children, ages 11, 9 and 4, ultimately boarded a United Airlines flight from Los Cabos to Chicago on Sunday afternoon. But they paid a high price for the last-minute, one-way tickets. They rented a vehicle in Chicago and hoped to get back to Minneapolis sometime in the early morning hours. The cost: almost $2,000, about half again as much as the entire vacation was to cost them.

The flight to Chicago really was their only option, said their travel agent, Emily Kladivo of Emily’s Travel Service. A flight to MSP would have cost $709 per person and taken 26 hours, with stops in Mexico City and Atlanta.

Kladivo said she has never experienced anything like this before and called the airline’s response “ridiculous.”

“Weather is out of their control; how they’re handling the situation is IN their control,” she said. “Send a plane, go get your passengers.”

That's just awful. These people don't deserve your business. Sun Country seems committed to becoming America's worst airline.

Monday, April 16, 2018


The News, in Haiku

Jill Scoggins, this was awesome:

If I wasn’t in
PR, it would be great to
Take a break from news.

How nice it would be
To ignore the feeds and just
Hit the button snooze.

I’d enjoy the day
Without the play of all the
Loud dissenting views.

Alas, here I go
Feeling a bit low because
It’s all just a ruse.

To hear all the noise
From angry girls and boys makes
Me really hate news.

Overall, I agree with Fallen:

Who to trust for “news?”
The urge to spin is too great.
Caveat emptor.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Church is closed

We've got an incredible storm going here in Minneapolis-- already over a foot of snow on the ground, and lots more on the way. It's not unusual to get snow in April here, but this is pretty remarkable.

Lots of things are closed. The Twins cancelled their games yesterday and today after the mascot, TC the Squirrel, failed to remove even the first wave of snow (see photo). Stores were closing down mid-day yesterday, and the airport was down almost all of the day. This is unusual in Minnesota, where we pretty much soldier through weather like this-- even enjoy it-- through much of the year.

I got two emails yesterday saying that both churches I attend will be closed today. Closed! I don't remember that happening ever before in my life, a church closed due to weather.

And I'm not sure I like it. I mean... I understand that the point is to avoid people undertaking risky travel, and both churches offered an online alternative. Still, there is something to be said for church being difficult, of there being a sacrifice to have it. I kind of wanted to be part of a hardy band in a warm place of God as the elements raged outside. In fact, I wanted to ski there for it, which will be easy to do tomorrow morning.

But, yes, that's selfish. It is odd that wanting to do a challenging thing is selfish, but many of our modern indulgences are that way; we soak up various events that press us to a point of some discomfort because we want that. And if it endangers others, yes, there is an element of selfishness in that.

So, I suppose, it will be online church for me today...

Saturday, April 14, 2018


MLK and the Amish and the Travelers

For the second time this week, my dad revealed a fascinating story from his past over at his own blog:

"On April 5, 1968 my wife and I woke up early to a near perfect day. Intense green grasses with limestone trout streams covered the rolling hills all around our motel. We were staying in a small town in Lancaster County, Pa. enjoying a brief spring break while the kids stayed in Pittsburgh with their aunt and uncle. Soft sunshine coming through mist greeted us when we pushed aside the motel curtain. We got some coffee and plenty of donuts from the office and sat on the beds in front of the TV. A solemn face told us that Martin Luther King Jr had been shot and had died in Memphis the night before.

We got into our car where we heard reports on the car radio of overnight disturbances in York, Pa. It was hard to believe that idyllic York, Pa. was warning their citizens to stay in their houses. The only thing we could find open so early in the morning was an Amish shop and diner. There was no one in the restaurant. In a back room we could hear fervent  voices of Amish men talking about the troublemaker who got his just rewards. These bearded men were pretty worked up about the upheaval the death of this radical man might bring to their peaceful community.

I  approached them and listened to their thoughts. They shared the vast majority of American’s view at that time, that MLK Jr was asking too much and presented a threat to life as we knew it. I told them that we looked at him quite differently and that for us Martin was a great man and like them was a nonviolent Christian who had made America a better place with his powerful voice for good. They thanked me for telling them about Dr King. The Amish are  gentle people. They generally stay out of public affairs as they  desire to avoid being “polluted” by the sin they see as rampant in the modern world. Where the heck did they get the idea that Martin Luther King Jr had a dangerous message?"

Friday, April 13, 2018


Haiku Friday: Reading the news

There are days that I have to just stop myself from checking CNN every twelve minutes. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, it just seems like there is too much-- most of it terrifying-- going on all at the same time.

Let's haiku about keeping up with the news. Here, I will go first:

I'm reading the news
Fascination and horror
It will not stop soon.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018


Political Mayhem Thursday: What's the biggest story?

Yesterday, IPLawGuy's brother Bob came to speak at UST law (that's us in the picture above-- he is very tall). Bob is a drug abuse counselor, and was talking about the opioid epidemic.

It occurred to me that in more normal times, the opioid epidemic would easily be the most important news story out there. However, these aren't normal times.

What do YOU think the most important story is right now within our national political dialogue? I'm really interested in what folks think. If you need a prompt (and you probably don't) here are some of the top contenders:

-- Opioid crisis
-- Mueller's raid of Trump's attorney's office and hotel room
-- Stormy Daniels' accusations
-- Events in Syria
-- Trade war with China
-- Paul Ryan announcing he will not run for re-election
-- Weather (misc.)
-- Border issues
-- EPA administrator Scott Pruitt
-- Facebook data thefts

Or, identify something else... but really, do tell me what you think is most important right now!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Jazz in the 50's

In a great recent blog post, my dad wrote about some of what he was doing before I was born. I love getting this little window into what he was up to in those days:

In the 1950’s I spent some time in New York City. My idea of a great night was to drink some beer and listen to jazz. The 50s were a time of creative breakout. We had been busy with war and reconstruction and the whole world was bursting with creative juices. Large expressive art was replacing the drab art of the war years. This was an exciting time, and jazz was at the center of it all. I spent time at familiar spots like Birdland and Jimmy Ryan’s and heard that Bird, Dizzy and Monk were hanging out downtown at The 5 Spot. They were changing the music.

Also in the 50’s I had a chance to go to the clubs in L.A. where one night Mulligan was playing across the street from Chet Baker. These were great jazz clubs. Great memories. I didn’t have a clue at the time how important these guys would be but I did know that something was going on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Another day, another Mueller bombshell

Yesterday was a really intriguing day in the investigation of Donald Trump and his campaign by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Two bombshell developments came out.

First, it came out that a Ukrainian steel magnate paid $150,000 (in the form of a donation to the Trump Foundation) for a 20-minute video chat with Donald Trump. That sounds bad, and it might be-  it all depends on the rest of the context. After all, it's perfectly fine to give $150k to a foundation straight up, without even the video chat. Unless, of course, you are paying for influence. This all does make it seem odd that Trump made such a big deal (with some justification) about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, of course.

Second, and more importantly, a pair of search warrants were executed on the office and hotel room of Michael D. Cohen, a longtime Trump associate and attorney. Cohen-- who was educated at Michigan's own Thomas Cooley School of Law-- was most recently in the news for paying off Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election.

I was shocked when I heard about the search warrants for Cohen's business and hotel room, which was received by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York on a referral from Mueller. It is very hard (as it should be) to get a warrant to search a lawyer's office. If you don't believe me, just check out the DOJ rules at Section 9-13.420 of the US Attorney's Manual.  Usually, permission has to be secured from Main Justice. And here, Mueller also handed the investigation off to Geoffrey S. Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York-- a Trump appointee who was a Trump contributor, and who had been a law partner of Trump confidante Rudolph Giuliani.

After Republican Mueller referred a case to Republican Berman, who sent in agents working for Republican FBI Director Christopher Wray, Trump complained that it was "mostly Democrats" who were after him in a "total witch hunt."

We live in interesting times.

And they are about to get a lot more interesting.

Monday, April 09, 2018


Online Gallantry!

Excellent haiku last week about Goofus and Gallant (and one about Beavis and Butthead)! One that intrigued me was this, from Gavin:

Let’s have an update. 
“Goofus tweets mean, hurtful things.”
I’d read that cartoon.

And look! It exists!:

It is a little baffling that they are both on the phone, though. That's some old-school online activity!

Sunday, April 08, 2018


Sunday Reflection: Spring is Unsprung

Here in Minnesota, winter is still hanging around. Yesterday the temperature was in the teens, and the ground is still covered with snow. Next to my driveway are two huge mounds, still taller than I am. 

As Easter approached, it seemed like Christmas was coming. And now Easter is past (and it wasn't even an early Easter) and it seems like it is yet to come. There is something, I guess, to that holiday serving a primitive function for us, marking the break between winter and the coming summer. When it doesn't, something seems wrong.

And yet, here we are. Last year, I was happily riding my bike to work in late March, and yet this year it would be just as believable to ski to work on any given day.  

But... this is my complaint in life? Really? Sheesh. If my biggest problem is something that will be solved through patience and the movement of the Earth around the sun, things are pretty good. And they are.

Saturday, April 07, 2018


Spot the scam!

So, I recently received the email below, from a supposed academic journal called the "FRCIJ." Here's what I don't get-- what is the scam? How are they making money (or hope to) out of this?

Dear Dr. Mark Osler,

Hope all is well at your end.

We understand your busy schedule and work commitments that do not permit you to submit manuscript. 

Well, we are planning to release an upcoming issue but due to lack of articles I am unable to release the issue. So I require your kind contributions and valuable support in making remarkable release by end of March. We will be very glad to receive any type of article (Research/Review/Short communication/case report).

If you are unable to submit a full length article at least submit minimum of 2 Page commentary/Mini Review at the earliest possible date enabling us to publish along with others.

Wish your contribution isn't time period having process by means of eminent just like you. 

Your kind acknowledgement within 24 hours is highly appreciable. 

Await your quick comeback.

Best Regards,
Angela Lawrence

Note: If you are willing to be a part of our reviewers for FRCIJ, submit your CV & Research interest.

Friday, April 06, 2018


Haiku Friday: Goofus and Gallant

When I was a kid, I loved "Highlights for Children," and especially Goofus and Gallant, a comic strip that has been running since the 1930's.  More accurately, I loved Goofus. While Gallant was handing his mother a note pad that contained contact information for the friend he was heading out to visit, Goofus was skulking out the back door with a mysterious box, yelling "I gotta go talk to some guys about some stuff." While Gallant was raising money for his Scout Troop, Goofus was blowing his allowance on enormous amounts of gum. Seriously, gum. The guy was dangerous and interesting. Goofus was my erstwhile hero, no matter how many times my Mom patiently explained how this all was supposed to work.

In truth, I tried to act more like Gallant most of the time. But Goofus was definitely the better story.

Let's haiku about our own Goofuses and Gallants this week-- it's a good way to disguise the identity of your heroes or enemies. Or, if you'd rather, just straight-up wax poetic about Goofus and Gallant themselves.

Here, I will go first:

Thinking about it
It is his parent's fault, right?
Named him "Goofus."

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

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Just up at CNN...

My take on what Mueller might have meant in saying that Trump is "not a criminal target" yet "under investigation."


Political Mayhem Thursday: The False Narrative re Dr. Martin Luther King

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the MLK50 symposium, which will come out later this year in the University of Memphis Law Review.

         The effort to address racial disparities in criminal law faces a large obstacle: the desire of many of those in power to declare that racial equality has already been achieved, because the basest badges of servitude and its effects   have been outlawed. That false narrative often includes a reference to Dr. King himself, as part of a fictional historical arc in which racism existed, Dr. King intervened, and racism was then resolved. This tidy storyline forcloses the need for greater inspection and introspection about our criminal justice system now and allows those with power to avoid the unpleasant task of even approaching the topic of racial equity within the realm of criminal law.

         This narrative was exemplified in an address at the Department of Justice's commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this past January.[1] In a speech leading up to an introduction of former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions illustrated the "mission accomplished" view of race and criminal law.

         First (and inarguably), Sessions recounted the racial horrors of his Alabama youth, citing segregated schools, wage discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and the absence of African-Americans within law enforcement at that time. Next, and also inarguably, he noted the emergence of Dr. King as a truth-teller, saying " Dr. King exposed that system for what it was—to the country and to the world— and helped end it by putting it to shame."[2] But from that point forward, there was nothing: no recognition of enduring problems, no mention of lingering racial disparities, and no acknowledgment of a challenge ahead. The story ended with an abrupt victory.

         That sense of the finality of the project was repeated later in Sessions’s speech, when he again turned to Dr. King's role and claimed, "Indeed, while he led the movement, the Department of Justice became the engine for making the dream a reality." Consider that for a moment: to the top law enforcement officer in the United States, Dr. King's dream is now "a reality." And, in his mind, it is the Department of Justice that accomplished this.

         The closest Sessions came to defining a vague directive to "act" was in urging that, "Whatever you do here at this Department, let us all renew our dedication to promoting justice—whether that’s by protecting law-abiding people from crime or defending their rights in court." There was no mention of current discrimination or bias.[3]

         Many, understandably, saw hypocrisy in Session's invocation of the King legacy. Vanita Gupta, for example, said that “It is ironic for Jeff Sessions to celebrate the architecture of civil rights protections inspired by Dr. King and other leaders as he works to tear down these very protections.”[4] At base, though, it may be something more subtle and insidious than hypocrisy that is at work here; by declaring that the dream has been achieved, Sessions doesn't make racial justice today a controversial goal, or one in which we might disagree as to tactics. Instead, he attempts to render it irrelevant, by defining the the world in such a way that a discussion is unnecessary now that racism has been addressed. "Move along," the policeman said, "nothing to see here."

         That narrative of a dream already achieved is, of course, embraced by the President himself. In January, shortly before Sessions' speech, he reportedly defined African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries."[5] When he was criticized for that, he told reporters that he was the "least racist person you have ever interviewed."[6] Even given Trump's penchant for hyperbole, it is hard to believe the President could hold those two thoughts together. Yet, it is possible-- if "racism" is seen as limited to the atrocities of the Jim Crow era. From that perspective, a bright line divides people who are racists because they believe in overt discrimination and segregated schools, and those who are not—and Trump sees himself as being on the right side of that line. As a staff editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed on that same Martin Luther King, Jr. Day put it in supporting Trump, “We need to confine the word 'racist' to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof.”[7] 

         The "dream achieved" narrative is understandably attractive to those in power. If racism is a thing of the past, they are simultaneously freed from responsibility to address questions of race and personally absolved of the stain of racism. Instead, it is only those who insist on talking about race who are labeled by the dream-achieved believer as the real racists—a standpoint that allows for the bizarre joint condemnation of white supremacists and Black Lives Matter.[8] The common bond between those groups, from that perspective, is that they both talk about race and thus deny the completion of the race equity project.

[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Dan Thomasson, "Sessions Has a Long Way to Go to Win Over African-Americans," Evansville Courier-Journal, Jan. 22, 2018, available at
[5] Julia Hirschfield Davis, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Thomas Kaplan, "Trump Alarms Lawmakers with Disparaging Words For Haiti and Africa," New York Times, Jan. 11, 2018, available at
[6] Brent D. Griffiths, "Trump: I Am the Least Racist Person You Have Ever Interviewed," Politico, Jan. 14, 2018, available at Of course, this is not the only, or even the most significant statement leading to charges of racism by Trump. Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Defends Initial Remarks on Charlottesville; Again Blames 'Both Sides,'" New York Times, Aug. 15, 2017, available at
[7] Editorial, “Reason as Racism,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 14, 2018, available at

[8] E.g.    William Douglas & Brian Murphy, “Pittenger Asks: Why Aren’t Liberals Condemning Black Lives Matter and others?” Charlotte Observer, Aug. 22, 2017, available at

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