Monday, August 31, 2020
Gavin wins again!
Skunks under my porch
Huge chipmunk in my basement
Spiders in my car
Squirrel in the attic
Starting to feel surrounded--
Even home is nuts!
But Christine speaks for us all, I think:
This is not on my
Twenty-Twenty Bingo Card
Longing for normal
(whatever that is)
As does my dad:
we have had blue skies
but also the dark side of
both nature and man
And the Medievalist:
Brewing some ice tea,
All the news is horrible,
Close my eyes and sip.
DDR was just dark:
This disease is bad
But not the worst thing inside
Meanwhile, though, Gavin definitely had some good things happen in a troubling summer:
My lil girl’s first steps
My boy rode his “big boy” bike
This was my summer.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Sunday Reflection: From Isiaih 58
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Saturday, August 29, 2020
In the News
Friday, August 28, 2020
Haiku Friday: The Crazy Summer
This has been quite a summer, huh? Pandemic, police violence, riots, hurricanes in Iowa, hurricanes in Louisiana, etc. etc. etc.
It's overwhelming. But pick out a bit of it, and let's haiku.
Here, I will go first:
The corn all blew down
The silo was toppled over
Field of tragedy.
Now it is your turn-- just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and tell your truth!
Thursday, August 27, 2020
If you have only been watching the RNC, you might not have been following the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week. To recap:
-- On Sunday, a black man named Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police as he got into his car as police pursued him. At the time, his three children were sitting in the car. The police now claim that he had a knife at some point in the confrontation.
-- On Monday and Tuesday, protests were conducted in Kenosha and other cities.
-- As has been happening all too often, protesters have drawn a response from armed vigilantes. One of those was a 17-year-old "police enthusiast" brought an assault rifle to the protests and shot three peaceful protesters. Two of them died. The alleged shooter is pictured (circled) in the photo above.
-- That shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, walked right past the police, with his gun, after the shooting! Which is quite a contrast to Blake, who was killed because he got into his car rather than obeying the police. If you don't believe in white privilege, this might change your mind:
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
YLS '01 & '02: A Collection
In the file, I found a list of the students in that class. Today, I'm doing brief profiles on some of them (the first five alphabetically!). These are folks ten years or so behind my class, so they are at a slightly but significantly different point in life. It's pretty incredible that these five accomplished individuals are literally just the first five people alphabetically....
Pictured at the right is Hon. Leslie Abrams Gardner, who was then a second-year student coming from Brown undergrad. She returned to Atlanta after school and worked in the private sector and then as a federal prosecutor. She was appointed to the US District Court in 2014 by President Obama, and confirmed in a 100-0 vote in the Senate. Her sister Stacey (also a YLS grad) is better known, but Judge Gardner has made her own mark on the bench and in her community.
Gabriel Bankier-Plotkin was a second-year also coming from Brown who had worked with homeless teens in his home state of Wisconsin before law school. After law school, he headed for Chicago and worked as a federal defender and then in private practice in criminal defense. Now he is the Chief Operating Officer for Tradewater, which develops high-value projects that reduce greenhouse gas. It's rare to see a change quite so sharp-- from criminal justice to environmental work-- but apparently it can be done!
Laura Fernandez (pictured below) came to Yale Law from Harvard after growing up in Tampa as the daughter of Cuban exiles. After law school, she clerked for Hon. Jack Weinstein in the Eastern District of NY (his writing is so good that I have one of his opinions as the very last case in my casebook). From there, she served as a senior counsel at Holland & Knight before returning to Yale Law, where she is a Clinical Lecturer in Law, Research Scholar in Law, and a Senior Liman Fellow. Her work centers on prosecutorial practices and ethics-- right in my field!
Peter Hennigan was a third-year student coming in with an undergrad degree from Carleton and a Ph.D. from Cornell. After law school, he went on to clerk here in Minnesota for 8th Circuit Judge (and former Sentencing Commission Chair) Diane Murphy and for 2nd Circuit Judge Ralph Winter. He has worked for United Health Care and several firms in Minneapolis, and now is counsel at Maslon LLC. His office is only four blocks away from my own!
David Jaros grew up in Western Massachusetts and came to Yale with degrees from Swarthmore and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He described coming to Yale Law as a fulfillment of "his lifelong dream of attending a school with no grades." He was no slacker, though. He clerked for Hon. Allyne Ross in the E.D.N.Y., and then worked for five years at the Bronx defenders office, where he ended up as the legal director. He is now Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore, and teaches and writes in the exact same field as I do. And Laura Fernandez. But, since what we have in common is a long-ago sentencing class, that should not be surprising.
Believe me, there are a lot of other interesting folks in this group-- this is just the first five! In fact, two of the others-- Bill Fick and Daniel Marx-- formed a firm with Judge Gerter (of counsel), and have had a remarkable impact in Boston. Among other cases, they were co-counsel in the Boston Marathon bombing case of US v. Tsarnaev. Here is the firm's website cover photo of the three of them confidently striding down a Boston street:
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
A skewed cycle of time
Each of these may seem mundane, but together I think it matters. We are programmed to live from touchpoint to touchpoint, aren't we? And now those guideposts are all over the place.
Is anyone else feeling this?
Monday, August 24, 2020
Desiree gave us this:
Whale watching -- so great!
Humpback breaches starboard while
Uncle Brent chums port.
And my dad wrote about something I remember (Helen was my grandmother, on my mom's side):
I watched Helen's
smile as she pulled in a
salmon half her size.
I'm kind of glad I wasn't with IPLawguy for this incident:
Rolling dark green waves
Grabbing rail, keeping stable
Oops!, I'm gonna hurl.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Sunday Reflection: A lack of lamentation
We are in need of lamentation. It is a spiritual value that sometimes secular governments express well.
Unfortunately, our leaders are not good at providing it during this time of remarkable political division. The President pretends things are better or will magically be over any moment, while Democrats are focused on blaming the President.
Perhaps that moment will come, and we can connect with our spirit together. But it does not seem close right now.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
She knows her husband
The Obamas both had their moment at the DNC, and made the most of it. Next up: the RNC! I'm really curious how that is going to come together. Because the plan changed a few times, they have not had the same amount of time to get the technical side together-- and that must be a real challenge. We can probably anticipate technical glitches.
But there will be important speeches, and I hope from the RNC the same thing I wanted to see at the DNC: Some kind of explanation about what that party wants to do over the next four years, rather than just demonizing the other side. I didn't get enough of that from the DNC-- we'll see if the Republicans can do better.
Friday, August 21, 2020
Haiku Friday: On a boat!
Which, as I write it, sounds like some kind of low-budget political fiction, but I guess we are all kind of getting used to that.
Anyways, Bannon was arrested off the coast of Connecticut while sipping coffee on the deck of a $35 million dollar mega-yacht owned by a fugitive Chinese billionaire.
Which, again, sounds like something that a guy who was a little drunk just made up.
But, I suppose that is just one of many things that people can do on a boat! ("that" being suffering arrest at the hands of postal inspectors who have uncovered your fake $25 million charity that fleeced Fox News watchers to enrich Bannon and three buddies). Let's haiku about some other things people have done, would like to do, or have heard of people doing on a boat!
Here, I will go first:
Four kids in a boat
We all think we are fishing
But such a racket!
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
PMT: The Democratic Convention
Certainly, the roll call vote was more interesting than usual! Most notably, we had this from Rhode Island:
Calamari chef for the win!
I'm not sure what the Republicans might cook up to match that. Their best bet might to somehow lure Lady Theresa Thombs out of retirement:
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Yale Law '90: Eric Stein
Eric Stein was one of a group of classmates who came from one of my favorite colleges-- Williams, which is tucked away in the mountains of western Massachusetts. He was pretty sharp-- his was another law journal note that I read with a sense of awe as he took on the difficult issue of school segregation (you can read that here).
His career after law school has been focused on a critically important and too-often ignored issue: fair lending practices, which allow families to own homes and build wealth. He has held leadership roles with Self Help, a nonprofit community development lender, and the Center for Responsible Lending, which... well, it is right there in the name. He's had some adventures in government, too-- among other things, he led the transition team that started up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Obama administration.
I love finding out about people like Eric who have persistently tackled a problem in our society-- and I have found a number of them among the relatively small group I went to law school with.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
UNC shows the future
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill welcomed students back last week in the usual rituals of move-in day: Parents pulled up in vans, IKEA furniture was carried up stairways, and roommates awkwardly met one another.
One week later, they sent them all away.
The students arrived, they went to big parties, and created a COVID cluster of 130 positive cases.
Unfortunately, that scene is already on display across the country-- well before most colleges start up. There is a real problem with staking any re-opening plan on the self-discipline of 19-year-olds. We all were 19 at some point, and if you think back to the invulnerability we felt at that age, this all starts to make sense.
For the same reason, it doesn't make sense to let college football play because the players (mostly) want to play. We don't leave important policy decisions up to 19-year-old guys because they are terrible at cost-benefit evaluation. They are biologically programmed that way-- it's the same reason that we draft kids that age in times of war.
This is going to be a tumultuous month.
Monday, August 17, 2020
Haiku about memorials
We had these two beauties from my Mom:
Near Barbarenque, France
Hidden memorial to
four shot by Nazis.
In Little’s Corners
Revolutionary War graves
Near old Grange Hall.
And this great piece from Gavin:
“...A German Soldier“
Black cross. Eternally shunned.
Conscript or zealot?
DDR had this:
Walking at midnight,
A grave on the high bluff top .
Hear the Pacific.
And I was really moved by this one from Megan Willome (you can check out her book on poetry here):
from Cuba to Assisi.
All her bushes bloom.
(We bought this house from Margy when she went to live with her daughter, and I get to enjoy what she planted in her garden every day.)
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Sunday Reflection: The Book of Joel
A time of pandemic is a pretty good time to revisit the Book of Joel (and my Sunday School class has been doing exactly that). It doesn't get much attention-- it is buried in the minor prophets at the end of the New Testament-- but it is spot on for our time.
It's not clear when the events take place, but it involves an epic infestation of locusts. While our calamity is of germs, not insects, they are both small things that devastate.
This passage describes the way these things roll out: not as a single event, but a series of tragedies that are related to and build on one another.
What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
Later we come to this, which the smarter people in my class explained. Apples would only have grown at a high elevation, or far away:
The vine withers,
the fig tree droops.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple—
all the trees of the field are dried up;
surely, joy withers away
among the people.
Put them together, and you have the challenge we have faced: a plague that rolls out in stages, and spread out over the world.
And, as always, the Bible here advises humility, a virtue in too short supply.
Saturday, August 15, 2020
It's tornado season, and they hit the Twin Cities yesterday. Because this summer hasn't had enough mess already....
Friday, August 14, 2020
Haiku Friday: Memorials
Yesterday I got off the highway looking for gas and ended up at the Great Lakes National Cemetery. It is on rolling hills near Holly, Michigan.
I walked quietly among the headstones and found myself amazed at the diversity and bravery in this country. I became fascinated by the faiths represented among those who served our country; you can see a full list of the available symbols here. The symbol chosen by Norris Ward Browner, for example is that of the Native American Church of North America. I passed many of the others as I wandered the green hills of the cemetery.
Memorials to the dead are important in many societies, and have deep meaning. Let's haiku about that this week.
Norris Ward Browner
Someone thought of you today
And changed a little.
Now it is your turn! Use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Political Mayhem Thursday: Kamala Harris
Since I was driving much of yesterday, I spent a lot of time listening to Republicans, including President Trump, react to the selection of Harris. Suffice it to say that they don't seem to have a theme picked out on this one yet. Here are the various attacks I heard, none of which seem to have much resonance right now:
1) She is mean and nasty, based on how "mean" she was to Biden in a debate. (Confusing. Is the problem that being mean to Biden is Trump's job?).
2) She is against fracking! (I'm pretty sure that the VP could not implement a ban on fracking).
3) She's not really African-American! (Pretty much straight-up offensive. She identifies as both black and South Asian, as her dad is from Jamaica and her mom is from India. I don't think she claims to be African-American).
4) She was a mean, tough-on-crime prosecutor! (see #5).
5) She is soft on crime! (see #4).
6) She is a socialist! (Er, no. There was a socialist in the race. His name is Bernie Sanders. Harris probably is pulling more to the left than she has in the past, but this claim is tired and wrong).
I'm looking forward to the Pence/Harris debate, which is going to be more even than some people are expecting.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
YLS '90: Jeff Bartos
I have devoted Wednesdays on the Razor to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990. It's been a blast!
Jeff Bartos was one of my favorite people in the class back when we were in school. He married a classmate who was in my small group-- Sushma Soni, to be profiled soon-- who was also fantastic and fascinating. So, if nothing else, they both had good taste.
He came to Yale Law straight off of undergrad at Columbia, one of a group of people already familiar with the (to me) mysterious world of New York. In his application essay, Jeff wrote that he wanted to practice labor law-- and guess what? He does, on the side of labor unions. [Sidenote: usually when lawyers tell you they work in "environmental law" and they have a nice suit, it means they represent polluters, and when people tell you they work in "labor law," they work on the side of employers. Not Jeff.]
Straight out of law school he went to work for Georgetown Law's clinics, and then shortly switched over to doing work for firms with a labor-side practice. He mostly represents unions in the rail and airline industries, which have their own set of labor laws. I'm sure he does not make as much as those who work on the side of employers, but if there is one thing I have learned in doing these profiles it is that money-making does not equal fulfillment and accomplishment.
It's pretty great when someone has a through-line like that tying together their lifetime of work. I think unions are good for our country, and I'm glad they have people like Jeff in their corner.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
A worthwhile commentary from Desiree
Every once in a while I like to raise up a particularly astute comment. Today is one of those days, and the comment was made by Desiree (you might enjoy her own Green Momster blog, which is only slightly defunct), talking about the prospect of online education coming back at us in the next month.
Yes, things aren't great on many fronts and it would be nice to get back to "normal" and, more importantly, have everyone safe and healthy (mentally and physically). But I'm going to be a bit of a Pollyanna on the education front. I think we can make the online teaching bit really effective! It's not the same as FTF, and kids definitely miss being with their friends, but I think if we go into this fall with a positive attitude and energy, the kids can still learn. Hopefully, the majority of students will find their classes interesting, but we really have to sell it. I learned something about looking at this through a different lens at graduation. We felt bad that the students had a drive-through graduation ceremony, with stops for photos, diploma, etc and a cheering section of teachers at the end of the drive. Although it was an odd ceremony, we put our all into the event. Surprisingly, many students told us that they thought their graduation was more personal and nicer than their older siblings' graduations. Hopefully, we can help students have equally positive feelings about our online classes.
I agree with Desiree. I also think there is a very good chance we will nearly all be back to online education within the month of September....
Monday, August 10, 2020
On the rain
Your haiku on rain were beautiful!
Desiree took two shots:
Rain, rain, go away!
Come again another day!
It fits perfectly :)
Ok, now the real one
Ruined my plans at
the drive-in -- Karate Kid,
Rain, rain, go away!
Christine had this (which I loved):
It fell from the sky
gently reviving the earth
plants, sighing, joyous
Susan Stabile came to visit:
The garden needs it -
Leaves are drooping, parched with thirst.
Let gentle rain fall!
As did the Medievalist (telling truth, as usual):
There is no rain here,
Texas in August is dry,
Dust covers the world.
And my dad chimed in (and made me melancholy-- this is what we should be doing at the island right now):
looking down the fishing rod
at droplets of rain
As did Amy Garrou:
Wet leaves, decay rules
my tiny yard, East Coast green
our constant reward.
Sunday, August 09, 2020
Sunday Reflection: Small Pleasures
Saturday, August 08, 2020
So often, Beirut has been the site of war and terrorism. But the explosion there this week was the result of graft and incompetence.
Of course, the harm from that came six years after bad decisions were first made.
What might we be finding out in six years?
Friday, August 07, 2020
Haiku Friday: The Rain
Thursday, August 06, 2020
PMT: Jason Hernandez and Clemency
My friend Jason Hernandez wrote a great guidebook for people seeking clemency, which is available for free here: https://www.getclemencynow.org He put a ton of work into it, and I really think it will help a lot of people. Jason asked me to write the foreword, which I have pasted in below:
Americans believe in freedom. It’s in the songs we sing, the pledge of allegiance, and the political slogans both parties rely on. Yet there are only a few among us who fight for actual liberty. That group includes soldiers, public defenders, free speech activists, and those who take risks on behalf of others. It also includes Jason Hernandez. This book—painstakingly written from experience, study, and discussion—lays out the key tools that can lead to freedom through the Constitutional device of clemency.
Clemency is the wild thing of the Constitution: it is unrestrained by checks and balances, resting instead within the soul and conscience of the president. The Constitution’s pardon power allows the president to grant two primary forms of clemency: a pardon (which removes some of the effects of conviction) or commutation (which shortens a sentence). There have been and will be presidents who are brave enough to use the pardon power to free those who are incarcerated for irrationally long sentences. Sadly, the number of people serving those sentences in our country is much too large.
The good news is that American citizens and our leaders are coming to see that fact. The recognition by both Republicans and Democrats that we incarcerate too many people for too long has finally become a majority view, and the movement is now towards a more reasonable and humane system of criminal justice. That means that no matter who is serving as president, clemency will hopefully become a primary tool for reducing incarceration and right-sizing sentences that are far too long.
Jason Hernandez did something remarkable: he wrote himself to freedom. He prepared his own commutation petition and then bolstered it with a follow-up letter to President Barack Obama (who, in fact, read the letter). Jason was one of the first people to have his sentence commuted by Obama. He knows how clemency works because he has both earned his own freedom and helped others do the same. In this book, he gives specific and worthwhile directions on how those in prison can follow his path. While clemency is never guaranteed and is still too rarely granted to even the most deserving petitioners, this book can help readers avoid the most dangerous traps and greatly increase their chances of success.
In 2011, I started the first law school clinic in the country focused on federal commutations. Since then, my students and I have prepared dozens of clemency petitions and corresponded with hundreds of people in prison. In 2015, New York University professor Rachel Barkow and I set up a pop-up law office to prepare clemency petitions during the Obama administration’s clemency initiative, and worked with hundreds more. I have also gone into federal prisons to talk about clemency—how it works and what it means. Through all of this, I have seen the depth of the tragedy in our criminal justice system and the waste of human potential. Still, I couldn’t write the book that Jason has. I have never had to work two hours to afford one stamp and an envelope, or draft a document on a broken typewriter, or wait in line to make a phone call, or suffer any of the other unnecessary indignities that those in prison must push past. Jason does know all of that, and it is woven within the rhythm and wisdom of this book.
For those who read this book and succeed, I ask for a commitment: When you are in freedom, take inspiration from Jason and the many formerly incarcerated individuals who have came out and helped others succeed. Join us in trying to change the clemency system as a whole so it can work to free more people who have proven themselves deserving. Stand with us to revive this forgotten part of the Constitution. It’s a good fight, and we need you.
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Yale Law '90: Paul Kalb
I have been devoting Wednesdays on the blog to profiling my many (well, only about 160) and varied classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990.
Most of the people coming into Yale Law were pretty accomplished already in one way or another (and then a few of us were, uh, all potential at that point). Paul Kalb was at the top of that list-- he was already a medical doctor, having gotten his MD and worked as an attending physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. That was a little intimidating. Also, an excellent person to have in classes where health issues come up-- which is a surprising number of law school classes!
Since we graduated in 1990, Paul has been at one place (which is pretty rare): the Sidley Austin firm in DC. He does-- as one might expect-- medical work there, and serves as the head of their health care group.
I think Paul is one of only two people I have profiled thus far who has been with one employer since graduation-- pretty impressive stability!
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
The Lincoln Project
Most people have stumbled on the Lincoln Project one way or another by now-- they are a very prolific group of anti-Trump Republicans who have run a series of scathing ads. One of the leaders is George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.
It really seems like no one is agnostic on Trump-- there is a core group of people who love him and always will, and a lot of others who are very ready to boot him out. I run into very few folks who shrug and say "I guess he has some good ideas, and some bad ones."
The issue, of course, has as much to do with personality as anything else. Usually, that doesn't matter much to me. But at this point, aspects of his personality seem to be leading him away from what he should be doing-- creating, framing, and promoting a national strategy to combat the coronavirus.
Monday, August 03, 2020
Maybe America will
declare all out war on the
We heard, too, from the Medievalist:
Dog days of summer,
Texas, suburb of the sun,
Time for gin tonic.
And from DDR:
Trump steps down, August
Hello, President Mike Pence!
Trump gets TV show.
And finally, a little picture from Desiree:
Soon kids go to school.
Mom's sad but tries to enjoy
last month of summer.
Sunday, August 02, 2020
Sunday Reflection: Stokely Carmichael was not the anti-John Lewis
Bill Clinton has been disappointing us for a while, in fits and starts. Last week, he did something that made me really shake my head.
Clinton was one of the people who eulogized John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In so doing, he said this: "there were two or three years there where the movement went a little too far toward Stokely,” he said, “but in the end, John Lewis prevailed.”
It was a subtle dig at Kwame Ture, who is often known as Stokely Carmichael (he changed his name in the 1960's). Ture led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that Lewis was also a part of (he succeeded Lewis as leader in 1966), and was one of the original freedom riders.
In 1964, the Democratic Party in Mississippi did not allow black Mississipians to participate in the party, despite the fact that 40% of the state population was black. Moreover, the party worked hard to deny blacks the vote at all. The Freedom Democratic Party was founded as an alternative, but the national Democrats refused to seat the representatives of that Party at the 1964 convention, instead seating the delegates of the racist official party.
For a lot of people, including Ture, that soured them on American "democracy," which, as it was practiced in Mississippi, was not democracy at all. Given the facts, that isn't surprising, is it? Ture went on to become an important figure within the Black Panther Party.
Ture's vision was pretty clear: working within white power structures would never lead to equality; instead, blacks needed to build their own power structures to achieve parity.
It's not unfair to say that history has in some ways vindicated that view.
But going back to Clinton's statement, the problem is not just the slight to Ture. It's that Clinton viewed what gains have been made as Lewis's and not Ture's. That's a gross oversimplification, and like most oversimplifications it isn't true. To make the limited gains against racism and inequality that we have made, both visions were needed. And, more importantly in this moment, to make further gains there are going to have to be multiple voices that we hear from within the black community-- and we need to do that without dismissing any of them out of hand as being "communists" or terrorists. The truth is a rope with many threads.