Friday, July 31, 2020


Haiku Friday: What happens in August?

It seems like, at least in my lifetime, August can be the most surprising month. Things happen out of the blue more in August than in other months, it seems.

Of course, this whole year has been a little too much that way, hasn't it?

So let's haiku about August-- what we expect, what might surprise us, and what we wonder. Here, I will go first:

No Osler Island
This year- the border is closed.
So, wander instead?

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020


PMT: Coronavirus etc etc etc.

What we hope is true is conflicting pretty strongly right now with what we know is true.

We hope that we won't have to suffer the effects of coronavirus anymore. We hope that we can send kids back to school and watch football and just have things be friggin' normal again.

We know, if we care to, that COVID is still raging in this country, with deaths edging over 1,000 a day and new cases plateauing at a high level-- around 60,0000 a day. 

We are going to have to choose between what we know is true and what we hope is true. We aren't always so good at that-- and that dilemma has subverted our efforts so far.

I want there to be school next month. As a teacher, I do not want to go back to teaching a bunch of postage-stamp pictures on a screen! But... reality is going to intervene, whether we want it or not. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


YLS '90: Robert Schapiro

I've been devoting Wednesdays to profiles of my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990. I was hoping this would be a great lead-up to our reunion this fall, but (like so many other things) that has been cancelled. Nevertheless, it has been a fascinating endeavor!

Robert Schapiro seemed like a law professor when we were all law students. He was super-smart and able to engage in an intellectual badinage with the instructors that put to shame the mumbling and pointing that I did. He just seemed to get a concept and move immediately into critique, which is a remarkable ability.

He came to Yale Law from a Phi Beta Kappa academic career at Yale College and a Masters degree in history from Stanford. The history background, of course, gave him insights into much of what we were learning.

He was the editor-in-chief of the Law Journal, and then moved on to clerkships in the Southern District of New York and the Supreme Court, with Justice Stevens.

He did a year at a big firm and then became the professor he always had kind of been. He has been at Emory Law School since 1995, and served as Dean from 2012 to 2017.

His academic specialty is federalism, a topic that is always relevant as the American experience constantly shifts power between the states and the federal government.  He's written a book and a slew of articles on the subject, showing an admirable focus. (In contrast, when people ask what I write about, I sound like a complete dabbler: sentencing, death penalty, narcotics policy, clemency, theater, etc. etc. etc.).

Here is discussing his area of expertise:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Baseball and schools

[pictured above per the NY Times: the Miami Marlins give each other coronavirus after their first game last week]

The President is pushing for schools to re-open next month in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic. This is probably a bad idea. Have you been to a high school lately? I have-- it's pretty much impossible to enforce any semblance of safe conduct in a pandemic. Kids are everywhere, jammed in the halls, running around, etc.

So, we got a pretty good preview of this in Major League Baseball. MLB decided to have an abbreviated season with limited travel.  They got four days into it before the pandemic came for them-- the Miami Marlins reported that (already!) 12 of their 30 players and two staff members had tested positive for coronavirus.

MLB has tremendous resources and a small group of people, and they could not pull it off. Why do people imagine that their local public high school will do better?

Monday, July 27, 2020


Haiku of the time

I'm not sure how much it had to do with "Summer Games"-- the theme of last week's haiku Friday-- but DDR zeroed right in on the statement above in writing this:

Person, Man, Woman,
Camera, TV-- That's Trump's
Recipe for fun!

{or porn}

Meanwhile, Jill Scoggins was right on target:

Building sandcastles
drip by drip with 3 year old
grandchild. Perfect bliss.

And my dad's read true:

Horseshoes in the sun
is fun but a cold beer in
the shade is better.

But the Medievalist painted the picture that really appealed to me:

Cold beer, a hot grill,
Monarchs play in the flowers,
Good conversation.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Sunday Reflection: What is being created?

Several months ago, back in March, I mused that the COVID epidemic might create a fascinating artistic moment-- a wave of creativity driven by dislocation and the uniqueness of this time.

I'm not sure that I was right. Yesterday I posted about the new Taylor Swift album, which is definitely a creature of quarantine, and is really good. But is there more, from less bland corners of our culture?

It could be that we don't know yet; that the nature of the pandemic is that the fruits of creativity won't be revealed until that veil is lifted.

Or, it could be that I was wrong. Something I failed to consider was the connection between creators and the audience; some art forms are not meant for isolation. The thought made me miss my friend Greg Tishar (who I remembered here). Greg taught me how to be part of that audience-- how to engage with passion and emotion, and that it was ok to loathe and to love what you were seeing or hearing. I miss that. Not having that makes me lonely in a way, a very specific way, that makes life less colorful.

A year ago, I went to Detroit to see a show that my dad had up at a gallery. It was magical to walk among crowds pointing and talking about the work, about what people liked and did not like. It was like watching the paintings come alive, the people in them walking with us, laughing.

Do we need that? I don't know. But I need that.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


If you can count on one thing from the Razor...

It's up-to-the-minute Taylor Swift news!

Well, not really. But she did release an album yesterday-- supposedly of things she wrote and recorded during the pandemic-- and it is supposed to be pretty good. Here is the first video:

Friday, July 24, 2020


Haiku Friday: Summer Games

It's summer. All kinds of outdoor games-- bocce, horseshoes, jarts-- take over the lawns, and even some of the indoor games come outside (see illustration).

Let's haiku about some of those this week. Here, I will go first (regarding said illustration, taken a week ago in Northern Michigan):

Social distancing
Can sometimes include moments
Of elegant joy.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020


PMT: The Coronavirus Conundrum

On Tuesday, over 1100 people died of COVID in one day for the first time in a month and a half. It was inevitable that deaths would go up after total infections did, but it is a dispiriting reality.

Now the choices become harder.

If kids go back to high school and college kids return to their universities, there will be  another spike in infections-- at this point, that is simple math, given the inability for social distancing in those settings and the likelihood that mask use will be limited by the patience of teenagers.

But if school doesn't start, there will be a real personal and economic cost for many families and the nation. Workers will be unable to go back to work because their kids are at home, and even those who try to work from home while the kids are there will lose efficiency (as we have seen for months).

Plus, as the weather gets colder, the chance of doing things outside-- which turns out to be much less conducive to the spread of COVID-- will become more limited.

In Texas, there is much hand-wringing because the football season has been pushed back for some high schools.  Of course, it is a terrible idea to have a football season at all. "It should be ok, if kids are willing to take the risk," some coaches say. Right-- because kids are so great at cost-benefit analysis and delayed gratification for abstract outcomes, huh? And, of course, the kids might be ok. It's their grandparents who will die.

Many of us hoped this would be over by now. We are having to face the cruel reality that it just is not done. I hope we do, in fact, face that reality.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


YLS '90: Richard M. Lucas

I am devoting Wednesdays to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law Class of 1990, which has turned into a pretty fascinating task!

Richard M. Lucas came to Yale Law fresh from getting a business degree at Georgetown University. I think he was pretty rare in that-- you would have expected more people to come from business school but we were mostly a bunch of History, Philosophy, and English majors.

After school, he didn't mess around; he went straight to one of the nation's leading law firms, Arnold & Porter, where he made partner. He was there for 18 years, until 2008.

Then he made a big change-- something I see in a lot of my classmates. He moved over to the business side, first for Hilton Hotels and now with Walker & Dunlap, a big commercial real estate service and finance company, where he serves as the Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary (which frankly seems like a lot of jobs to do at the same time).

I've gotta think that commercial real estate would be a challenging business right now, with office space lying empty all over the place because of the pandemic. I'm hoping that the same lessons that sent us all in different directions are serving him well now.

Richard's daughter Kate has diabetes, and he has worked for years with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as a board member, advocate, and fund-raiser. Like many of my other classmates, he picked a cause and stuck to it-- the best way to make a difference.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Trump in Portland

I am alarmed by what federal agents are doing in Portland. In short, according to the New York Times, here is what is going on:

Federal agents in Portland have snatched protesters off the streets and thrown them into unmarked vehicles without explaining why they were being detained or arrested, according to some of those who have been seized. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, has called it “a blatant abuse of power,” and the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has called it “an attack on our democracy.” The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order against the federal agents for what she called unlawful tactics.

First, some context.

It isn't unusual for federal agencies to focus their attention on certain cities and certain crimes. For example, those projects have included gun reduction efforts in Richmond and narcotics interdiction in Miami. The bare fact that federal agents are taking on what are essentially state cases in defined localities is nothing new.

What is different, though, is that those efforts are usually conducted in close collaboration with local authorities, who welcome the extra manpower in addressing discrete problems. For many of us, even with these kinds of cooperative efforts, this raises a federalism issue (not to mention an over-incarceration issue), but because of the resources of federal agencies, it happens.

That isn't the case in Portland. So that's a double whammy-- a federalism issue, compounded by the fact that the federal project is contrary to the wishes of the locals.

And, of course, there is the problem of federal agents not being identifiable. 

For conservatives who believe in federalism and in accountability-- which is most of the conservatives I know-- there should be real red flags with this project.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Carey Cupcakes

We heard in verse from Nate about what he is up to:

Bar prepping all day
Practicing with a mask on
Is this lawyering?

And also from Desiree:

Driving to Richmond,
visit son number one and
eat Carey cupcakes.

I had to look up what Carey cupcakes are. I think it is this....

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Sunday Reflection: The Portrait

I got up yesterday early, and sat in a little grove of trees by a stream in northern Michigan with my parents. It has been great to see them again in person.

We talked about John Lewis, who had died the day before. Congressman Lewis was a remarkable man, and probably a lot of other families had conversations about him yesterday, of one kind or another.

Ours had a special element, though. My dad had painted John Lewis's portrait.

Often, my dad works from photos. For this, he took a series of pictures of Mr. Lewis in Ann Arbor. My dad said that he was struck by how John Lewis seemed not to crave attention the way other politicians tend to, but was gracious about the whole thing.

After that, my dad started thinking about the background. He had read somewhere that Lewis grew up in a wood house in Alabama, and thought that might be the backdrop-- the boards of that house. So, he got in his car and drove from Detroit to Alabama. Because, I suppose, that is how you get things right. That's how you tell the truth.

He knew that Lewis was from near Troy, Alabama, so he started there. The first people he asked didn't know who John Lewis was, but then he found some professors having lunch (from Troy University, I guess), and they knew that Lewis was from a nearby town.  So he drove that way.

When he got close, he stopped for gas. He struck up a conversation with another man there, and asked him if he knew where the wooden house was, the one where John Lewis had grown up. The other man said "That house wasn't wood! It's brick!" My dad asked the guy how he knew, and he said he knew because he was John Lewis's brother.

And that settled that.

So, instead, my dad did an American flag as a background, but not a waving clean one. It looks as if it is painted on broken concrete. There might be a bullet hole. Because, we can love something imperfect, like this country, and true patriots strive to make it better.  

Here is the portrait:

Saturday, July 18, 2020


The Croque Monsieur

This is masterful. But... starting with making the bread?!? And I guess my own first step will be getting a beautiful stand mixer like that with the question-mark shaped attachment....

Friday, July 17, 2020


Haiku Friday: How ya' doin'?

It's challenging times: the Coronavirus is still with us (wasn't this supposed to get better?), we are too often kept apart, the economy is in the dumps, and it has generally been a pretty tough year. So.... how ya doin'? 

Here, I will go first:

On a dark bridge by
A lake, a comet zoomed by
We all fell quiet.

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

Thursday, July 16, 2020


PMT: What's going on at the NY Times Editorial Page?

I've always been a fan of the New York Times editorial page. I've even gotten to place two pieces there-- here and here.  But lately things have gotten a little... weird. 

First, they ran a pretty dumb op-ed by Tom Cotton, titled Send in the Troops, which advocated sending in the military to counter protests and riots in response to the killing of George Floyd. Cotton is not only my least favorite Senator, but one of the worst politicians I have come across-- he blatantly follows the Trump playbook in stoking fear and division, and he consistently advocates for making criminal law even more punitive. He's a wealthy guy with two degrees from Harvard who often rails against the "elites." Crazy.

Did I agree with Cotton when I read his piece? No, I never do. But I often read things by people I don't agree with. Often I learn something. That wasn't true of the Cotton piece-- it was just opinion and bluster. But it does represent a point of view that a significant number of people have, including some veterans like Cotton, and I didn't think much of it.

Others did, though. 

Apparently, there was an uproar among the staff at the Times that led to the resignation of the Op-Ed editor, James Bennet. Then, this week, columnist Bari Weiss resigned, issuing a scathing letter that complained of bullying on Slack and Twitter. Weiss was a conservative, who had been brought in just three years ago.

I suspect the paper will survive just fine. I do hope that they will continue to seek balance on their pages, something they have achieved pretty well in recent years. That doesn't mean they have an obligation to publish voices of hatred on either side, or pieces that just aren't very good. But that still leaves a lot of room. 

And maybe it is time to send them something again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Another rant about Roger Stone

I'm still upset about the Roger Stone clemency-- but Congress should not make things worse by trying to impede the pardon power. I explain here at The Appeal.


YLS '90: Whit Cobb

I have been profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990 on (most) Wednesdays-- it's been a blast to track them all down!

Whit Cobb came to Yale Law from Duke, and I got to know him pretty well since he was my roommate first year, the only year I lived in the dorm.  It actually was a beautiful dorm room, with a fireplace, fascinating leaded glass windows, and two separate bedrooms.

From the start, it seemed like Whit was way ahead of me. He immediately connected with some of the schools of thought whirling around the school and was a great conversationalist. We lived next door to Rich Sullivan and Vernon Grigg-- it was not a dull corner of the school.

What stood out to me about Whit from our law school years was his law journal note, which you can read here.  When I read it back then, I was thunderstruck-- it was clear and strong and true. In fact, I think it affected my own work going forward in very real ways (something that will be obvious if you read it). It was such an accomplishment for someone of our limited experience.

After law school, Whit clerked for Judge Thomas Clark of the 11th Circuit, and then served in the Army for four years. From there, he became a partner at Jenner & Block before being named as Deputy General Counsel of the Defense Department, where he served from 2001-2004. Since then, he has worked first as Vice President and Deputy Counsel for BAE Systems and now as General Counsel at PAE.

It's funny to think about the different directions the four of us on that little hallway have taken: Whit is in business, Rich is a federal judge, Vernon is running Up with People, and I'm doing whatever it is this stuff is called. I'd like to think that YLS prepared us all well for very different pursuits.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


We all need something to make us laugh...

... and right now, Sarah Cooper is doing it for me:

I'm not exactly sure why that is so funny. It might be that anyone's distinctive voice, dissociated from their body and attached to someone else's, would be pretty funny. Or it could be that it makes you focus on what Trump is saying-- and that what he is saying isn't just incorrect, but deeply weird.

What is making you laugh?

Monday, July 13, 2020


On Summer

Loved this from my dad:

The air is still and
so am I the flowers and 
virus are vibrant.

And Gavin's:

Hammock ‘tween two trees
The breeze rocks me back and forth
Lazy cloud floats by.

IPLawGuy nailed it:

Light until its late
Lots of time to play, but no,
Work keeps me busy.

The Medievalist is where I want to be:

A breeze in the trees,
Sunshine on my shoulders, warm,
A glass of cold beer.

Tim Fournier paints a picture:

The air stands sentry 
Laundry hangs limp on the line
The fish are biting.

Some good imagery there.... and an all-male set of poets this week!

Sunday, July 12, 2020


Sunday Reflection: On Hating Roger Stone

Predictably, I'm getting a lot of calls about President Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's sentence at about 8 pm on Friday-- an odd time to do anything a president feels is worthy of public scrutiny. You can see some of my thoughts on it here and here.

Is it corrupt? Absolutely, in the sense that Trump is rewarding with freedom someone who was literally convicted of lying to protect the President. Mitt Romney, actually, was pretty eloquent in setting this out, "tweeting "Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president."

My primary take on this, again, is that the bigger problem in this administration (like the one before it, and the one before that, and the one before that...) isn't too much clemency-- it is not enough. No, Trump shouldn't use this crucial constitutional tool to insulate his friends from punishment when they lie to protect him. That's terrible. But a 67-year-old guy not going to a COVID-threatened prison isn't terrible in and of itself. The bigger problem is that so many other people-- tens of thousands, just in the federal system-- are not given the same consideration even though they have equities in their favor.

It is a delicate balance, but one that is spiritually required: We must condemn corruption without falling victim to the poison of retributionism and hate. Don't be infected by the same thing that led people to hate draft evaders, and drug users, and marijuana sellers; it never takes us to a good place. 

It is hardest to turn away from retribution when the person in the dock is someone we truly, deeply dislike-- but that is when it is most important to do so. Jesus didn't command us to "love thine friend," after all; that hardly needs saying.

We Christians signed up for a tougher challenge than that.

Saturday, July 11, 2020



I am watching this video over and over so I don't think about Roger Stone having his sentence commuted as 13,000+ petitions wait in limbo...

Friday, July 10, 2020


Haiku Friday: The Heart of Summer

The days go late. The humidity hangs in the air, attaching itself to you somewhere between your clothes and your skin. The sky can be hazy or crystal clear.

It's the heart of summer. Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I'll go first:

I watch one sailboat
Cut an arc on Lake Harriet
The shape of the moon.

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

Thursday, July 09, 2020


Political Mayhem Thursday: A Response to a Lot of White Guys My Age

Hi! I'm Mark, and I'm a 57-year-old white guy from Grosse Pointe who now lives in Edina, a relatively affluent and mostly white suburb of Minneapolis. I used to be a federal prosecutor, and also in the Rotary Club. I lived in Texas for a while in a neighborhood called "Castle Heights." Even my name, Mark, was used as a proxy for whiteness on Saturday Night Live.

Based on all of these things, people tell me things they probably wouldn't say to someone who wasn't quite so white. Often those things are racist and terrible. I spend a lot of time pushing back, with mixed success.

One thing that I see now is a lot of White Guys My Age ("WGMA") having damaging discussions with people in their families and communities. I'd like to address a few of those tropes here.

#1: The only people being discriminated against now are people like us!

Really, WGMA? You look around you and see bias against... us? In what possible way is that true? What is the last video you saw of a WGMA being mistreated by the police? We are wildly over-represented in nearly every position that confers wealth and power. White men 50-79 years old represent about 15% of the US population. The next presidential election is guaranteed to involve at least 75% people from our group (Trump, Pence, and Biden). The U.S. Senate is composed of +60% white guys our age. We control corporations, non-profits, state governments, and just about everything else, despite being one-seventh of the population. If someone is trying to discriminate against us, it hasn't been very effective. The truth, if you care to see it, is that bias against others has favored us at nearly every step of our lives.

#2: Hey, Black Lives Matter-- What about black-on-black violence?

For some reason (actually, I think we all know the reason), this is a point that White Guys My Age seem a little obsessed with. Here's the problem: what you are doing here is changing the subject. Someone you know-- a child, a grand-child, a co-worker-- is making a point about racism in America, often in the context of police violence. And then you change the subject by turning to black-on-black violence.  You are blowing right past the point they are making to launch into something else-- signalling that you don't care about the topic they brought up (or, really, about them). If your concern for the black victims of gun violence is really so important to you, then maybe what you need to do is pick some other time to talk about it, and then seek out someone knowledgeable to talk to about it- hopefully someone from the community you are apparently so concerned about. The conversation might involve delving into issues of poverty, racism, and gun policies, so be ready for that.

#3:  These rioting Millennials don't know how the real world works!

There's at least three things wrong with this one. Least important, if you are talking about college-age people, they are the generation behind the Millennials-- Generation Z. Second, and more importantly, these people usually seem to be viewing everyone who was out in the streets as "rioters" or at least complicit in rioting (one example here). However, of the entire group in the streets, very few of them were rioting, but many of them were protesting, and the difference is crucial. The former can be a destructive crime. The latter is a right protected by the Constitution, and one which has brought important things to our nation from the beginning. Third, it is much more likely that you don't understand the very real world that young people are living in rather than they don't understand yours. Think about it: They face terrible unemployment, disrupted lives, a deadly pandemic, and a historically unstable federal government. That's pretty real. And they understand us better than you might think; after all, they grew up watching us. If they aren't impressed, maybe that is on us.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020


YLS '90: Akosua Barthwell Evans

I have been devoting (most) Wednesdays to profiling the pretty remarkable members of my law school class. Sadly, Yale Law '90 just had our reunion canceled (understandably), so I will not get to catch up with all of the people I have written about!

For Akosua Barthwell Evans, Yale Law was just part of her post-college education: she has an undergraduate degree from Barnard, and a M. Phil. and a Ph.D. from Columbia. Like me, she was born in Detroit, the daughter of Sidney Barthwell, an entrepreneur who started a chain of drugstores and an ice cream company (Akosua tells his remarkable story here).  Her family, including her brother Sidney, was well-known in Detroit for their business and community leadership.

After law school, Akosua became a Managing Partner at JP Morgan, where she launched two national businesses and advised a wide variety of clients. She then returned to Detroit to become a consultant at Coopers & Lybrand, where she became the first female manager of the consulting group.

In time, she formed her own consulting company, the Barthwell Group, a boutique multi-dimensional firm with a remarkable client list. She is involved in many community groups, including the board of the Detroit Historical Society, which basically steered me towards my lifelong interest in history when I was a kid.

Detroit is lucky to have her back. I'm amazed at all she has done, and the legacy of her family that she has continued and enlarged in that place I hold dear.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020


So 2015 was apparently a long time ago...

Like a lot of other people, I watched the movie version of Hamilton last weekend.  

I had seen the original cast in previews in New York, and was blown away by it. There is no doubt that it is a remarkable musical.

But, watching it now, something seems off. We are just in a different moment, and a lot of what is different has to do with race. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda was innovative in casting the musical cross-racially, so that the white historical characters were played by people of color (except King George). In 2015, that seemed like a blow against our racial expectations. Now, it seems almost gimmicky, in the face of the fact that nearly all of them were complicit in the slave economy in some way. The dancing, singing Schuyler sisters are a little less fun when you realize that they were from a New York slave-owning family, and were raised with the help of slave labor.  

The play didn't change, but the mainstream of society did. I suppose we ask harder-edged questions, and are more willing to see the full stories of historical heroes more clearly-- something that Hamilton edges away from.  

This might be the break-up we need. It's not you, Hamilton, it's us-- and that's a good thing.

Monday, July 06, 2020


Maybe the best Hamilton-related haiku ever....

... could be this gorgeous entry from last Friday by Megan Willome:

with the man who puts
a comma after Dearest,
watching "Hamilton"

And it is always good to hear from the Medievalist:

Me gustaría 
Estar en España y
Tomar cerveza.

[My translation:

I would like
Being in Spain but
This beer gave me a tumor]

I liked this from Christine (and it is familiar):

Pool side, the Shores Park
Grilled hot dogs delivered
to the life guard staff

Suntan oil, Sun In,
A breeze off cool lake waters
The stench of fish flies

Excellent work by Ann S. (remember, the topic is where we wish we could be):

In a country changed
2020 history
Proud to be mask free

This anonymous one sounds like my Mom:

Pinery camping
Little flags on the table
Wet sandy ex-pats.

And finally, this from my Dad (who also has a great blog post up-- check it out here):

on a windsurfer
my family safe on shore
is laughing at me

Sunday, July 05, 2020


Sunday Reflection: Two Flags

Yesterday was a different kind of July 4th for many Americans: no fireworks, no parade, no big barbecue. That all made it a pretty good moment to reflect on actual patriotism, though-- which has nothing to do with parades or fireworks or barbecues. To me, patriotism is connected to sacrifice, and not just the sacrifice of soldiers in wars.  

That said, for Christians, we must acknowledge that love of country can't be our guiding force. We can't say that we follow two flags equally, because sometimes they conflict. The demands of our nation do and will, necessarily, diverge from what our faith implores. In those moments, we must choose our faith if it is faith at all.  When our nation chooses to forego devotion to the sick, to the poor, to those in prison, we must go the other way, behind Christ. 

That means, frankly, that the most devout Christians rarely are successful politicians. 

Here is something that made me unpopular at some events in Texas: I don't say the pledge of allegiance. That's because my allegiance isn't to the flag of the United States or the institution of the United States-- it is to the God who formed me and the savior who challenges me to do hard things.  The reverence in the pledge to "under God" doesn't help; it simply conflates allegiance to nation with faith, something that we just can't do if we hold Christ in the one and only primary place of authority. 

Christ didn't promise that following him would make you popular. The opposite, really: in Matthew 16:24 he says that following him means taking up a cross. Think about that-- it means bearing the implement of your own public humiliation and death. 

So the mean looks from the people who noticed that I didn't put my hand over my heart and say the pledge were just a scratch compared to that. Funny, though-- no one of those condemners ever bothered to ask me why I didn't say the pledge. Maybe they already knew.

Saturday, July 04, 2020


The Day After (1983)

I remember watching this movie on television when it came out. It's a terrible movie. But there was something deeply chilling about the sequence that starts at 48:00.

It embodied, I suppose, our worst fears then.

Friday, July 03, 2020


Haiku Friday: Where do you want to be on the 4th of July?

It's been a weird year, huh?

And like everything else so far this year, the 4th of July will be, um, different. No fireworks (official ones, anyways). With the increase in COVID cases, probably no travel for most of us. And, no cupcakes, because of the cupcake shortage. It's pretty grim.

This week, let's haiku about where we would be for the 4th if we could be anywhere. Here-- I will go first:

Foot of Colonial
At the end of my old block
We would ooh and aah.

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

Thursday, July 02, 2020


PMT: Trump turns away from reform (?)

Jonathan Swan, writing at Axios, had a troubling report yesterday, suggesting that President Trump has given up on his efforts at criminal justice reform:

President Trump has told people in recent days that he regrets following some of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's political advice — including supporting criminal justice reform — and will stick closer to his own instincts, three people with direct knowledge of the president's thinking tell Axios.
Behind the scenes: One person who spoke with the president interpreted his thinking this way: "No more of Jared's woke s***." Another said Trump has indicated that following Kushner's advice has harmed him politically.
Why it matters: This could be the final straw for federal police reform legislation this year, and it could usher in even more incendiary campaign tactics between now and November.
Of course, I am really disappointed to hear this, and hope it isn't true. Just about the only bright spot for me in this administration was the First Step Act, which really was significant. Certainly, Swan's report is consistent with what Trump says publicly of late, much of which is focused on an unflinching and uncritical support for the police (except, of course, the FBI when they investigate him and those around him).  

Politically, these seems to be part of a larger strategy--or, maybe "instinct" is the better word-- to bore down into his base and their hot buttons. It's a curious strategy, given that his base is not large enough to deliver him the election-- right now his approval rating is at 40.5%. To win, he needs to win some independents, as he did in 2016,  

Of course, I don't want him to win-- I think Joe Biden, with his faults, would be a better president and certainly would surround himself with more competent people.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020


If you missed it:

Check out last week's Murphy Institute program, in which Lorri Stennis Brown gave an eyewitness account of what it is like in prison in the time of COVID:

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