Sunday, February 28, 2021
Sunday Reflection: The End of Exile
I hear people using the phrase "when this is over..." a lot these days. It usually is tied to some kind of freedom we are now denied: the freedom to safely assemble as in the picture above, for one thing. "I just miss hugging" one dejected colleague who is doing spiritual advising over Zoom told me last week.
And there is hope, right? Vaccines are out there-- though not enough-- and the numbers are going down. Many conversations center on exactly when people will be able to return to those things they miss most.
And I am one of them. I very much miss teaching people whose face I can see. Until masked teaching, I didn't realize how much communication is lost if we can't see facial expressions. I call on a student, and they sit more upright-- are they alarmed to be called on? Eager? Suddenly awake from slumber? I really can't tell.
There is a lot in the Bible about exile. The Jews were exiled to Egypt, then to Babylonia. When they came back, there was a lot to sort out.
I suspect the same will be true with us, with our inside-out exile (where we are exiled to home rather than cast out). We will fully re-enter a world that has changed to adapt to the exigencies of pandemic, and institutions that relied on the presence of people-- churches, restaurants, clubs-- many of them are diminished or gone. We will not have our familiars to go back to.
There is a deep tragedy in that. But also great opportunity, to re-make our social institutions in better ways. We can rebuild churches to be more welcoming. We can create common spaces that are more humane and inclusive. We can re-imagine things like restaurants. And probably we will have to do all of these things if we are to thrive as social beings.
Are we up to it?
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Now That's a Beautiful Voice!
Friday, February 26, 2021
Haiku Friday: The Moon
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Political Mayhem Thursday: Neera Tanden
The first real confirmation problem for president Biden is, predictably, Neera Tanden. Tanden is Biden's nominee for head of the Office of Management and Budget, a quietly powerful role within the federal government. Though the claptrap is that she is in trouble-- probably doomed-- is because of "mean tweets," but it probably goes deeper than that.
In short, Tanden seems to have made some enemies in a long career in politics. She graduated six years after I did from Yale Law, and just three years after that she was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Hillary Clinton's successful run for the Senate. Her career has been intertwined with the Clintons, and she was a fierce defender of Hillary Clinton against both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump when Clinton ran for president.
Tanden helped found and later ran the Center for American Progress, a progressive think-tank that has been home to many Clinton and Obama administration expatriates.
Yes, she compared Ted Cruz to a vampire and Mitch McConnell to Lord Voldemort, but that is pretty tame compared to what we saw come to the surface over the last few months.
Her primary area of expertise is health care policy and funding, which does directly relate to the work of the OMB. But... Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has announced that he will vote against her confirmation because he finds her "overly partisan." Unless a Republican vote can be found, that sinks her in an evenly-divided Senate.
Given that many of her now-controversial statements were on Twitter, I continue to be amazed at the power of a social media platform whose distinctive quality is a limitation (on the number of characters in a tweet).
In completely unrelated news, I had a piece in yesterday's Waco Trib about the electrical grid issue there-- you can read it here.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
My Students: Clay Harris
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
How close are we to herd immunity?
A few days ago, the New York Times explored how close we might be to herd immunity against the coronavirus. It all depends, of course, on how quickly people get vaccinated and how much protection people have by dint of having already had a bout of COVID. Both remain variables.
Somehow, it doesn't seem fair that people who already suffered with coronavirus might get it again. But there are instances of that already, and the variants will impact that likelihood.
In short, it looks like the best-case scenario is herd immunity being reached sometime this summer. And wouldn't that be grand?
Monday, February 22, 2021
Haiku On Ice
That sounds like a third-tier figure skating show, huh? But it actually was our haiku theme last week, and people nailed it!
This one was anonymous-- but I'm pretty sure it was from my mom (and it is about my dad):
A starry cold night
He stands with a misting hose
Making an ice rink
Next day it’s ready
Kids with hockey sticks appear
And the game begins.
My dad, in turn, had his own entry (which was a little depressing):
The ice reached downwards
to the small boy begging him
to break a piece off
Tomorrow he would
go out and find a puddle
where his kind friend was.
And the Medievalist has had enough ice in Waco this week:
Normally I like
Ice in coffee, to skate on,
Not in living room.
Desiree had a good reflection on a familiar sight:
To prevent falling,
walk with feet flat on ice-- the
Hockey Coach Shuffle.
And this came from IPLawGuy:
The word Ice rhymes with
rice, spice, nice, splice, dice, lice, mice
But I got Nothing.
Christine, in North Carolina, had this:
A glaze upon bark
Pink blooms encapsulated
And this one was anonymous, but I'm pretty sure it was from one Robert Van Winkle:
Ice Ice baby dum
Yo VIP let’s kick it alright
Stop, collaborate, and listen.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Sunday Reflection: The Light Inside
Saturday, February 20, 2021
It's no secret...
They aren't exactly flying under the radar, but there are folks out there who don't know The Lumineers. If so, here they are:
Friday, February 19, 2021
Haiku Friday: Ice!
Ice is everywhere! We're used to it here, but it has invaded places that it really should not go. I'm wondering how the Medievalist is doing-- a Minnesotan in Texas when Texas is acting like Minnesota.
But I'm sure we all have something to say about it right now, so let's haiku about ice this week. Here, I will go first:
The most elegant:
The thin, curved line in ice
Cut by a left skate.
And now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!
Thursday, February 18, 2021
PMT: Ice and Money
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
My Students: Josh Zive
When I started teaching at Baylor, one of my tasks became coaching mock trial teams. 3/4ths of my first team is pictured above, literally emerging from Trader Vic's at the Palmer House in Chicago. The look of this team is clear: Off-duty cops looking for a fight, or perhaps NFL-sized offensive linemen coming out of a steak dinner hosted by an appreciative QB. (The fourth member of the team, who may be completely hidden behind Dan Sorey in the middle of this photo, was Meredith Weiss, who was a fierce competitor but not a left tackle.
At the far left is Joshua Zive, a brilliant lawyer and memorable character. He came to Baylor Law after growing up in Reno, where his dad served as a bankruptcy judge, and his mom was enough of a character that she named her dog Iggy Pop. Josh was a hard-core debater and found his way to the the University of Kansas, where he excelled.
And, man, did he love debate and Kansas. Before starting law school at Baylor, he got a Masters in something-or-other there and coached undergrad debate. And the Kansas thing... I recall seeing him in school dressed head-to-foot in Kansas gear, leaving me to wonder if it was Halloween. It wasn't-- just a Kansas basketball game.
On my mock trial team, Josh was intense, smart, and adept. He was one of those students you knew would do well, and he has. In 2002-- literally the year he graduated-- he went to Bracewell (formerly Bracewell Giuliani, thank goodness), a large national firm. He's still there, working in the DC office doing a variety of government relations work. Among other things, he represents the FBI Agents association, which has to be fascinating.
I'd love to get that team back together...
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Trouble in Waco
Monday, February 15, 2021
While looking for new music I found this, which is kinda fun:
On 60 years
Thanks for the many great haiku in honor of my parents' 60th anniversary! What a testament to love. There were several anonymous entries, and I love this one:
Fall in love repeatedly
Key to sixty years!
This gem was also unattributed:
Kind and generous
Drove dharma Colorado
Love knows no bounds ski
As always, Megan Willome was spot-on with my favorite of them all:
two people alive
two hearts still loving and strong--
And Christine knows these people:
Spanning sixty years
Eyes twinkle, show love endures
through good times and not.
I don't know who "J-Say" is, but I loved the haiku!:
Much gathered and lost
In a long life together
Love remains constant.
And another by anon.:
Loving these great folks
whom I barely know; Osler
And a final anonymous entry:
Such a happy day!
Spike and Phyllis forever!
With love as their guide.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Sunday Reflection: Life with and without music
Music is nearly universal. It exists across cultures, time, and anything else that usually divides us. It animates worship, lets us dance, gives us a sense of place and time. But... can you name a song that come out in 2020? I can, if I think hard and press my finger against my head (I do that when I think hard-- I suppose that I must subconsciously think by brain is activated by a button).
Something has happened. For many people, including me, music has become less a part of my life in the last ten years.
It is easy to blame music for the problem. We often wax nostalgic about prior eras. For example, in just one year, 1967, all of the following things happened:
-- The Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper" AND "Magical Mystery Tour"
-- Dionne Warwick sang "I Say a Little Prayer"
-- Aretha Franklin released "Respect"
-- Frank Sinatra recorded "That's Life"
-- Van Morrison recorded "Brown Eyed Girl"
-- Dolly Parton joined Porter Wagoner's band (pictured above)
-- Phillip Glass released "600 Lines"
-- Nina Simone was female jazz singer of the year
And that's just a bit of what happened. But 2020? Hmmmm...
Part of what has changed is the role that radio plays in our lives. In 1968 through my own young adulthood, you always heard new music on the radio (if you listened to, say, WABX in Detroit). Now, radio is mostly people yelling about politics and a few stations playing country (which has remained vibrant, as has hip-hop) or music from, like, 1967.
Formats changed, too-- from vinyl to CD's to having songs somewhere in a computer someplace-- and not everyone followed along.
The truth is, there is still good music out there. We just have to find it. I know I am going to start trying!
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Often I post music videos here on Saturday, and I realized today that most of it is old. I'm not one of those people who refuse to listen to anything recorded after 1987, but somehow I stopped exploring. I'm going to write about that tomorrow.
For now, here is something new. A few songs from a Nigerian singer, Olamide, who sings in Yoruba and English. I like it:
Also, for what it is worth, I want to dance like these guys:
Friday, February 12, 2021
Haiku Friday: 60 Years
What could be better than that to haiku about this week? If you know them, you probably have some thoughts- feel free to direct a poem at them. If not, feel free to freestyle on the theme. There is a lot you can do with this one!
Here, I will go first:
A thousand true gifts
And some I don’t realize
Good souls and great, both.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!
Thursday, February 11, 2021
PMT: The Impeachment Trial
It turns out that the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 was even more dangerous than I thought. New video (available at the Washington Post here) shows the narrow escape some lawmakers had.
Looking at this, I realize how fortunate it was that the rioters didn't successful use fire to destroy things. There were bombs found in and around the city linked to the group, but nothing went off and I'm not aware of a major arson.
Some observations on the impeachment trial:
-- The House managers have done a really good job. Democrats can make great prosecutors, it turns out.
-- Meanwhile, Trump's lawyers are awful. More than anything, they seem to lack preparation and focus. There is no coherent messaging, and they seem to just be making stuff as they go along-- kind of like the Trump presidency. As a friend on Twitter noted, it's pretty bad when a guy appears on a courtroom Zoom call as a kitten and doesn't even make the top two for worst appearances by a lawyer on that day.
- Republican Senators' disdain for the process is not only disrespectful to the Senate, but will make them less popular. Pandering to the 35% of the nation that will vote for whoever Trump tells them to isn't a good look. More than anything, it is following rather than leading.
-- The outcome is pretty certain: Republicans will dutifully vote to acquit Trump, and the requirement of a super-majority will make that determinative. But the political outcome in the longer term will be telling; I suspect that they may lose another 3-5% of their base in this mess.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
My students: Chris Clark
He did it though, and St. Thomas was deeply blessed to have him. Because he was not a criminal law guy, he was not in my classes. Still, I often heard about him from others, many of whom did not know our connection. They always talked about him as being special, gifted in mind and spirit. I was taken with him mindfulness, too, and his gently soul. When I ran into him in the hall, no matter how busy I was, I couldn't help but detour and visit for a while, and I never regretted it.
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
I am not a cat
Inevitably, this will happen to me on Zoom:
Funny things Alan Dershowitz said
Monday, February 08, 2021
Super Bowl poems
Well, that wasn't so much of a game, was it? And the halftime show was somehow both baffling and boring. The Weeknd? More like The Weaknd.
But there were some good poems by Razorites!
The Medievalist showed up, fortunately (with a sly reference to The Refrigerator):
The stupid bowel
Is always an enormous
Christine remembered a better, um, show:
Will Janet Jackson
Flash the tv audience
again, oops wrong year.
I wasn't sure if IPLawGuy was talking about the brains of viewers or players:
Football games are fun
But destructive to the brain
Makes me feel guilty.
Desiree is playing favorites:
No half-time show will
top my girl Shakira's show.
Hips don't lie. Mic drop.
And DDR correctly predicted the outcome!
Is it "The Big Game?"
I don't know what's so "super"
Always a blowout.
Sunday, February 07, 2021
Sunday Reflection: The Three Preparations
Luke 4 tells a great story.
Before his ministry, Jesus set out into the wilderness for forty days. The devil tempted him three times, and Jesus responded to each in a way that prepared him for what he was to do.
First (because Jesus ate nothing for that period), the devil used his hunger against him. "If you are the son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread," he taunted. Jesus refuses, saying "Man does not live by bread alone."
Second, the devil tempts Jesus with power over "all the Kingdoms of the world." And Jesus refuses that.
Third, the devil takes him to the pinnacle of the Temple, and challenges him to leap off. Jesus refuses again.
Interesting. Jesus is telling the devil what he won't do in his ministry, preparing for a path that would make him something wonderful and unique:
1) He wouldn't impress people with tricks-- the way people do with a flashy talent, or a degree, or a title. He would instead draw them inward and outward.
2) He would exercise power, not influence. Instead of making people do something, as the powerful can, he would convince them that an action was right.
3) And here is the important one, perhaps-- he showed that he would not destroy himself. How many times have we seen people with talent do that?
Saturday, February 06, 2021
T. Pain raw
If you ever wondered (as I have) what T-Pain sounds like without auto-tuning, well here you go!
Friday, February 05, 2021
Haiku Friday: Time for the Super Bowl!
It's that time of year, when everyone who doesn't know anything about pro football (a group that pretty much includes me) watches one game with a pretty wicked halftime show! So let's haiku about that this week.
Here, I will go first:
Mis-said but wise words
From a drunken friend long ago:
"It's the Stupor Bowl!"
Now it's your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!
Thursday, February 04, 2021
PMT: The Vaccine Vagaries
A story in yesterday's Washington Post did a good job of explaining how some states are doing better at distributing COVID vaccines than others: The key seems to be keeping it simple and pro-actively trying to reach people instead of relying on complicated online registration schemes or dozens of providers each doing their own thing.
Minnesota is doing a pretty bad job of it. There is a fair amount of confusion about where to get shots and when, and we have been in the bottom 10 states in terms of getting inoculations into arms. It's disappointing, given the "good government" reputation of the state and the wealth of health industry resources (including the Mayo Clinic, which is huge, and a large number of health-care companies).
And then there is the troubling issue of disparity.
Rich white people seem to be getting the shots more than anyone else. Yes, I know-- an eye-rolling surprise, that. But it is worse than our usual disparities because poor and minority communities see a disproportionate number of deaths, and what is at issue here isn't relative wealth or housing issues (which do matter) but actual life and death.
National leadership on this is crucial. Donald Trump utterly failed at making this a true national effort-- but now it is the Biden administration's challenge, and we will see if they can do better. I was expecting (and hoping) that the feds would nationalize the effort, but there is little sign of that happening.
About 450,000 Americans have died of COVID, a number that seemed unimaginable ten months ago. But here we are. And those in authority now bear the burden they sought: to address the worst public health crisis of our time.
Wednesday, February 03, 2021
My Students: Michelle Simpson Tuegel
I'm devoting Wednesdays to profiling my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.
In law school, Michelle Simpson had an unusual background: magna cum laude college grad and water ski champion. But her competitive instincts were useful in court, too, and that quickly became clear. I met her when she took my criminal practice class. I paired the students up for exercises, and put her with Andrew Tuegel. So.... anyways, that worked. In class, she was talented and fierce. I was kind of surprised when I heard she was staying in Waco after graduation, but that quickly began to make sense.
She got a job working for a very experienced criminal attorney in town, and soon was doing extensive trial work herself-- including on many capital cases. She was the right person for that work, and threw herself into it, with all the emotional cost that comes with it.
Eventually, she edged into civil cases, and now is one of the nation's leading advocates for sexual abuse victims. She played a leading role in the cases on behalf of Olympic gymnasts who suffered abuse at the hands of team doctor Larry Nassar, and has since represented people in similar situations across a broad range of settings. Her practice is truly national, and groundbreaking. She does a good job of explaining it all here-- and it is wonderful that there is so much to say!:
Tuesday, February 02, 2021
My Friend the Celebrity!
Last Friday I made an appearance on Almanac, which is the most Minnesotan television show ever (I like it a lot). It was just a little interview to update what was going on in the Chauvin case. You can see that here.
Yesterday, though, I found out that my St. Thomas Law School colleague and friend Mitch Gordon is actually the poet laureate of that show! You can see why here:
Pretty impressive wordsmithing! I was surprised, though, to find that the award he is given at the end appears to feature Clippy, the super-annoying Microsoft "helper" that would appear on the screen to say "It looks like you are trying to write a letter! Would you like some help?" in a super-annoying voice that conveyed the message that you did not know how to write a letter. I've expressed my true feelings about Clippy before-- if you want to recap, you can do that here.
At any rate, you can see why Mitch Gordon is a beloved member of the faculty here.
Monday, February 01, 2021
Haiku of very local wilderness
You all outdid yourselves last week! So much good stuff.
Christine brought the drama:
Perched on a branch
Hawk surveys the bird feeder
um, perhaps a snack
Nary a bird seen
as wee ones alert others
shelter in the shrubs
While we had two good anonymous entries:
Big bird in my yard
Nicknamed the "Quaranturkey"
Really a peahen!
And a great one from Gavin:
Tracks in the fresh snow
Show me the world that exists
At night while I sleep.
IPLawGuy chimed in from snowy Virginia:
Dog walks late at night
We don't always see the fox
But the dog senses him
Desiree got this theme (as one would expect):
Crying like a babe.
Foxes on the prowl for mates
Our dogs go out in
pairs at night, so the little
pup ain't coyote snack.
And we were graced with a visit from TallTenor, in not-snowy but somewhat scary Texas:
We live in their space.
No wonder they come inside
And wreck my garage.