Wednesday, March 31, 2021


My students: Robert Callahan

 I'm devoting Wednesdays on my blog to profiling some of my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.

Robert Callahan, Jr. came to Baylor Law after undergrad at Gonzaga-- meaning that he just may have his two alma maters facing off in the NCAA basketball championship game. 

Whatever they did at Gonzaga worked pretty well, because by the time Robert arrived at my class at Baylor, he was well-prepared for law school. I was impressed by him and made him a member of a mock trial team that I coached with Mag. Judge Jeff Manske (a team that included current Baylor advocacy director Robert Little). He was already a skilled trial lawyer-- principled, sharp, unafraid, and quick on his feet. 

He has thrived since then, both as a lawyer and a member of the Waco community. After a stint with a small law firm, Robert spent four years as a county prosecutor and then went into private practice on the defense side. He has excelled: in fact, in 2020 he won the Percy Foreman Award from the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association, recognizing him statewide (and Texas is a pretty big state) as the outstanding lawyer. I'm really proud of him and what he has done.

Perhaps just as importantly, he is often a voice of conscience in debates within and beyond Waco. (If you want a taste, follow him on Twitter-- @RCallahanWaco). That fearlessness and sense of principle I saw in him as a law student has endured and expanded. As a teacher, there is nothing that makes me happier. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


2020 turned out pretty well for China


I've just finished reading a fascinating article in The New Yorker, Peter Hessler's The Rise of Made-in-China Diplomacy.

In short, if you think Donald Trump somehow limited the power of China, you'd be wrong. I'm no Trump fan, but I really thought that if he did anything, at least he addressed the trade imbalance with China.

Except, he didn't. As it turns out...

-- Chinese companies dealt with tariffs by passing the cost on to their American customers. Basically, they ended up being a tax hike that we paid.

-- China was the only major economy that grew in 2020.

-- The driver of that growth was exports, including to the United States.

-- One tiny part of that export growth? Manufacturing Trump flags and MAGA hats, of course. Do Trump fans even bother to read the label? Hessler reports: "After the Capitol was stormed, on January 6th, Jin Gang, in Shaoxing, reported a spike in orders for Trump flags. He sent me pictures on WeChat of the new designs that were being manufactured by the Johnin assembly lines: “Trump 2024: The Revenge Tour,” “Trump 2024: Take America Back,” and “Trump 2024: Save America Again!” 

-- What American media do the Communist Chinese allow their citizens access to? Fox News. As Hessler describes it, "In a detail that is unlikely to appear in any of the station’s promotional materials, the Communist Party didn’t bother to block Fox’s Web site, unlike those of CNN, the Times, and other American sources."

-- Hessler teaches English at a Chinese school. One of his anecdotes:  "All November, a student in the front row of my journalism class wore a “Trump: Keep America Great” baseball cap. He referred to the President as Chuan Jianguo, an ironic Chinese nickname that pairs the Trump surname with a Communist-era patriotic moniker—essentially, Make-China-Great-Again Trump."

There's more, but maybe I'll just leave it with "Make-China-Great-Again-Trump."

Monday, March 29, 2021


Warm and wonderful haiku

 We had it!

From Gavin:

Sun, 40 degrees. 
Late March in the Twin Cities
Pale legs, shorts, flip-flops. 

From the Medievalist (who is obviously NOT in Minnesota):

Flowers are blooming,
Sunshine is on my shoulders,
Coat back in closet.

From Tim Fournier (welcome!):

The water wings on
And the muck boots stored away
I float blissfully. 

From IPLawGuy:

Buds, blossoms, flowers
but in March, Global Warming 
Scary consequences.

From Desiree:

"No pants after June!"
says my shorts-wearing colleague.
Teachers love summer.

From Christine:

The sun shines, higher
in the sky, as soil warms up...
beneath, the world greens.

And I liked this anonymous entry:

Warm day, bought periwinkle
Blue pansies with joy

Sunday, March 28, 2021


Sunday Reflection: Palm Sunday


Today is Palm Sunday. I've had some very memorable Palm Sundays; there is something about it that seems to engage my soul.

For one thing, it's baffling. I mean... what a scene! Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem and two key things happen. First, he arrives riding a donkey. Second, people law down palms in his path. On their face, neither of those things make sense. The second seems to be part of a story of glory, while the first seems to be an act of humility. The juxtaposition of the two is striking and confusing. 

Or is it?

Victory and humility almost always go together, if we examine them closely. Few truly successful people lack humility. 

If you ever got to meet one of your heroes, you probably know that already.

Saturday, March 27, 2021


Not that anybody asked, but...

 ... this is just about my favorite scene in any superhero movie:

Friday, March 26, 2021


Haiku Friday: Warmth


Warm weather is coming again-- even here in Minnesota. And in a few months, maybe, hopefully, we will be able to gather again in groups, in the sunshine.
Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
The smell of wood smoke
Will now come from our backyards;
The outdoors beckons.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun....

Thursday, March 25, 2021


Political Mayhem Thursday: Victory over death in Virginia


Something remarkable happened yesterday: Virginia got rid of the death penalty. It's the first Southern state to do so. Over the past 400 years, Virginia executed more people than any other state, and in the modern era it was second only to Texas. 

I really love Virginia. I went to college at one of its state schools, and still miss it. It has changed, of course, and for the better!

Just over the last 10 years, a number of states--Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, Washington, and now Virginia-- have eliminated the death penalty. No state in that period has re-instated or adopted capital punishment. The trend is clear.
If you want to know why this is a good thing, check out this simple fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center.  Also, you know, I wrote two books about it- including one (Prosecuting Jesus) that describes the battle in Virginia to make this change.
Thanks to Craig Anderson, I had the honor of meeting some of the people who were at the front of this fight and won this victory, including Steve Northrup and Michael Stone. It's remarkable to see decades of good work finally come to fruition! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


My Students: David Best


I'm devoting Wednesdays on the blog to profiling my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas (since I have ten years teaching at each).

Yesterday, I got a message from an attorney in Canada who needed help with a particularly unusual issue. He wanted representation in Minnesota. That's not something I do-- I limit myself to federal work, and only take pro bono cases at that. 

But I did know the perfect person for the task: David Best. I remember meeting David for the first time and being fascinated with his background: an Air Force vet who came to law school after getting an M.Div. from Fuller Seminary and starting a church. He was smart, grounded, and capable of reflection, all things that make for a great student and a great lawyer.

David was a part of my clinic, and did a wonderful job there. I also asked him to help out on the Trial of Jesus project, and he played a key role. I found him to be adaptable-- even when I wasn't totally sure what we were doing.

After law school, David pursued a mix of criminal defense and family law. He is part of a two-person firm, Bushnell Best, and is the kind of lawyer I hope to put out into the world.

Writing these profiles of the people I've had the pleasure to teach makes me profoundly grateful; I'm a very fortunate man.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021



 So.... I went through a "Glee" phase about six years ago, where I binge-watched most of the show. How this started is a little murky-- I wasn't exactly a show choir type kid in any way, and I also wasn't that into television six years ago. But, a lot of the music was pretty good, and I started to identify with some of the characters, and there it went. 

Certainly, I was well aware of how awful some episodes were, and cringed along with the rest of America. But that didn't deter me.

One thing I probably found compelling was that certain aspects of the show represented how I wished high school (and much of life thereafter) had been, marked by fits of shocking tolerance and episodic acts of actually working together towards a common goal.

If you want to understand the good and the bad of Glee without the total commitment I had, I would suggest this summary:

Monday, March 22, 2021


Basketball! Poetry!

 What a tournament! And the best part, by far, was Loyola-Chicago knocking off 1 seed Illinois after this prayer from their team chaplain, 101-year-old Sister Jean Delores Schmidt:

"As we play the Fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win," she said. "We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3 points. Our defense can take care of that."

Well, that worked!

And so did the tourney-themed haiku this week. We had this from Desiree, who I know went to William and Mary (we graduated together), but apparently hung around at Duke:

Sitting in Cameron
And my date's face is painted
blue. Go blue devils!

IPLawGuy, too, went to W & M, but haikued about another school (which is better at basketball:

ACC B-ball
Feature of my NoVa life
Then Maryland left.

And, relatedly from another W & M alum tagged as "Princeton Mom" (I see you, Beth!):

William and Mary!
Ever going to the Dance?
William and Mary!

Amy is more concerned with some other Virginia school:

Number 1 two years!
Unintended consequence
of pandemic. Fans

love Virginia's win
a little longer.

My dad brought up a sad memory:

Michigan's fab five
vs. North Carolina

sad oh-no ending.
Christine spoke truth:

Turned on the TV
Day One, so many upsets
Many brackets done..

 And the Medievalist sounds like he is ignoring the whole thing:

March winds blow cool breeze,
Flowers are budding anew,
Warm sun on bald pate.


Sunday, March 21, 2021


Sunday Reflection: The heart of it


A lot of people sent me a recent column from David Brooks (you can read it here) about a Christian ideal of social justice. Many of them said "I think you will like this!" Spoiler alert: I didn't.

The "Social Justice" vision Brooks describes is rooted in the idea of sin, not love-- and it encourages identifying the sin in other people. That's the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yes, we need to root out our own sins, but we aren't to judge others. Jesus taught this clearly. I mean... how much clearer can it be than "Judge not?" 

It is the "let's root out the sin of others" approach that has taken us to most of the bad things Christianity has done. We can root our ethic in love and still seek out sin-- we just must look inward rather than outward in that search. It should be love that we extend to others.

I have no problem with the idea that God will judge us, or that there is right and wrong. But nothing in Jesus's teaching suggests that our role is the same as God's. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021


The First Big Upset


Upsets in the Mens NCAA tourney? Oh yeah. 

Number 13 seed North Texas beat 4 seed Purdue.

Number 12 seed Oregon State, which started the season picked last in the Pac12, beat 5 seed Tennessee.

Number 11 seed Syracuse whomped Number 6 seed San Diego State.

Number 10 seed Rutgers beat 7 seed Clemson.

Number 9 Wisconsin beat Number 8 UNC (not really an upset-- 8/9 is a tossup game-- but they won by 23).

And in the biggest upset of the day, a 2 seed, Ohio State, lost to a 15 seed, The Oral Roberts University.

Pretty bad day for the Big 10, with two highly seeded teams (Purdue and OSU) out in the first round, but a great day for college basketball.

Friday, March 19, 2021


Haiku Friday: Tournament Time!


Am I ready for basketball! You bet! Is the nation ready for March Madness! Yes! Is playing this during a pandemic probably a terrible idea! Sure thing!

But here we go! The picture above is from the opening round game between Drake and Wichita State, which turned out to be an exciting come-from-behind win for Drake, which won the honor of playing USC in a few days. 

Let's haiku about the tournament-- who you like, why you can't stand the whole thing, memories of great moments, whatever. Here, I will go first:

So this could happen:
Michigan versus Baylor,
The championship! 

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


Thursday, March 18, 2021


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Equality Act

 We're struggling with a lingering pandemic. The economy is wildly uneven as wealth gaps widen, and millions of American families are just scraping by. Only two months ago, a violent insurrection tried to take over the United States Capitol while Congress was in session. And most Americans are suffering from isolation from at least some of the people they love.

And amid all this, Republicans seem to have identified their number one threat to America: Transgender girls.  In their made-up world, transgender girls are about to take over and destroy sports. In their minds, somehow, the two reasons that people pursue transgender therapies-- with all the cost, dislocation, loss of support and relationships and castigation that go with it-- are (1) to skulk around in bathrooms, and (2) to dominate girls sports.

The Senate was debating the Equality Act yesterday, which would give trans girls and women some basic rights (among other reforms for LGBTQ people). Ted Cruz was himself: going on about the end of women's sports and how downtrodden pastors would somehow be harmed by the bill. In response, we got to hear from a truly remarkable 16-year-old, Stella Keating:


 I hope you really will watch that video.

The idea that the trans girls and women will destroy sports is particularly laughable. Having spent 10 years watching the Baylor Lady Bears basketball team destroy frat guys in practice, it's hard to imagine that some trans girl who is taking estrogen (which reduces muscle mass and lung capacity) really is going to become so dominant that everyone else just gives up. Not going to happen.

 And, in fact, it hasn't happened. Since the early 2000's, trans athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics. Not one trans athlete has qualified for an Olympic team. Not one. And the same is true for the NCAA: Trans athletes have been able to compete in college sports for over a decade, but none of them have come to dominate a sport.

The thing that is sad about this is that Republicans should have something else to care deeply about rather than trans girls and women who just want to live their lives without being ostracized (in addition to Mr. Potato Head and several obscure Dr. Seuss books).  Congress just passed a $1.9 trillion bill that will have significant impact on the national debt-- something conservatives (even LGBTQ conservatives, which exist) used to care about. Instead, they are deadset on finding solutions for things that are not a problem.

Picking on oppressed people for political gain through lies and fear-mongering is cruel and wrong, and that is exactly what Cruz and company are engaged in.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


My students: Erick Sandlin


I'm devoting Wednesdays on the blog to profiling my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.

When he was in school, there was a lot that I noticed about Erick Sandlin. He was very sharp, right at the top of his class (2006). He had a calm demeanor that was somewhat rare in that time and place. And... we kind of looked alike. Maybe a lot alike. Enough that people often asked if he was my son (which I'm pretty sure he is not).

I knew that he would go on to do interesting things, and I was right! First he clerked for Judge Priscilla Owen of the 5th Circuit, and then he went to work at Bracewell (a large law firm) in Houston. He's still there, as Senior Counsel, working on the usual stuff a big firm in Houston would do, such as "energy trading issues." 

But, that's not all.

He also is an artist whose work is displayed throughout that area. One article about his work is titled "Erick Sandlin: The Artist and Litigator Changing the Rules of Spray Paint,"which is unique among my former students. If you want to check out his work, look here. I like it, a lot. 

I'm so glad he is doing both of these things. Here he is explaining part of it:

Monday, March 15, 2021


The Fundamental 14


Not long ago, the folks at The Appeal asked Rachel Barkow and I to put together a set of broad-stroke structural changes that could be done in the next year. First we came up with the "Doable Dozen," but then we thought of a couple more and it ended up as the "Fundamental 14." It's a bold agenda, but attainable and would make a big difference in the long run. 

You can read the whole thing here-- and I hope that you will!


After a Year...

 Some wonderful reflections... in haiku!

I loved this one from Desiree:

Even introverts
noticed something was missing.
But our dogs loved it.

The Medievalist is looking ahead:

It was a sad year,
No Spain, bad Zoom, no travel,
Summer, Madrid!

And the Waco Farmer sees the good and the bad:

Aside from the death,
it wasn't all that bad, really.
Much love all around.

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Sunday Reflection: The Unknown


As I get older, I have become more comfortable with the unknown. As a younger person, I wanted to know the answer to everything, and was frustrated when there was not a definitive, clear, sensible explanation for why things were this way or that way.

Life has a way of humbling us. Some of the things I was most certain of turned out not to be true, of course. And along the way, I found that I had told people things with utter certainty that were not certain at all. For example, I was an absolutist during the Reagan era. I believed, and told people, that everything Reagan did was destructive and from bad intent. I was wrong about that. Would I vote for him now? Probably not. But I do see that he was smarter than people gave him credit for and that while he took advantage of things like racism for political advantage, he also made some choices that turned out to be wise-- like choosing a moderate woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, for the Supreme Court.

The picture above is taken from just above a hidden window in my parents' house. It nearly always has a curtain over it, as shown here. I remember thinking that this is the way we see the world God created: as through a glass, darkly, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians. 

Giving up the idea of mastery of everything has been a good thing. That intellectual humility has made me a better listener, a better scholar, and a better person (though I am still prone to getting pretty judgmental about things sometimes). 

About that window, too...

Notice that it does not let us see and understand everything on the other side. Yet, at the same time, it diffuses but doesn't block the light coming in-- that beam is strong and real and comforting. We don't have to act like we are God to know that there is a God. The first premise of what I know is this: There is a God, and it isn't me.

Saturday, March 13, 2021


The Lost Opening

 Maybe, because of the pandemic, you have by now watched every episode of The Office. However, you probably have not seen this:

Friday, March 12, 2021


Haiku Friday: One Year


A year ago this weekend, everything went Kablooie. Everything shut down, school went online, everyone began to hole up... it was a turning point. So much has happened-- and not happened-- since then.

Just writing that brings up some feelings.

Let's haiku on that; I'm giving everyone wide leeway.

Here, I will go first:

It did not seem real
But... so many moments; and
What all did I miss?

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021


PMT: The stimulus bill



President Biden will sign the $1,900,000,000,000 stimulus bill, which made it through Congress with a narrow, Democrats-only majority. According to the Times, here is what is in the bill:

-- $1400 checks for those making under $75,000.
 -- An extension of the $300-per-week federal supplement to unemployment benefits
-- A significant expansion of the tax credit given to people with children. People will be eligible for this even if they don't pay taxes (or much in taxes), and soon will get it in the form of checks periodically. This is the advent of a form of guaranteed personal income. (Yang Gang Unite!)
--  Funding for vaccine distribution and testing
--  $350,000,000,000 for states and local governments
--  $130,000,000,000 for schools
--  A temporary increase in subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act
-- Money for public health programs and veteran's care
This really is something new, in a few ways. First, it is a huge pool of money, and will add to the national debt (continuing a pattern of expanding deficits that has extended through the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies).  Second, a lot of the aid will provide money directly to people who don't have a lot of money. This is going to be a good experiment: what happens if we try trickle-up rather than trickle-down economics?
I worry about deficits. I also think this stimulus will work to keep the economy moving towards a recovery that will benefit all. At best, it will create an economic boost that will mitigate the cost of the stimulus.... but we will have to wait to see about that!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


My Students: Gavin Johnson


I'm devoting Wednesdays on the blog to profiling my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas.

In my very first class, when I walked into the room not knowing anything about how to teach, I was lucky to find a student there-- David Moore-- who knew a lot about criminal law already, because he had a previous career as a sheriff's deputy. I very much appreciate that kind of experience in my class, and I found it again at St. Thomas when Gavin Johnson showed up. He was smart, mature, measured and almost always correct in his responses, and came to law school after a stint as a Fargo police officer in his home state of North Dakota. He was one of my favorite students then, or any time. He was in the ND National Guard while in law school, and I remember him missing class because of the flooding of the Red River (an oddity in the US, as it flows north while most of the rest flow south).

After law school, he served in the Air National Guard in North Dakota. His service has included two tours in Iraq, and he was tasked as Security Services Operations Officer, leading 74 enlisted personnel in protecting vital air bases. Now he is Circuit Defense Counsel in the Air Force, traveling the West defending airman accused of felony-level crimes.

And also... he is brilliant at haiku. You know the great poems by "Gavin?" This is that guy. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2021



So here's some news everyone already knows: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gave an interview to the world's best interviewer, Oprah Winfrey. The British royal family didn't come off so well, to put it mildly.

Well, duh. I'm in a long tradition of Americans who utterly despise the British royal family. It eludes me what their social utility is, and they seem a vestige of nearly everything that was wrong about Europe's past. It's baffling to watch people fawn over them-- we're a Republic! The founders of our nation rejected this whole thing, and were right to do it! There is nothing special about the Queen! They've clearly cut a deal with the tabloids, and it's a deal that is really with the devil.

Ok, I'm getting too worked up. 

Anyways, I guess it's good that I live in a republic, huh? And no, I don't want to watch "The Crown."

Monday, March 08, 2021


Haiku re Snowplows!

 I figured this one would be a challenge. "Snowplows" is not a traditional haiku topic (nature themes are the intended subjects), but people did a great job with it.

We had this from my dad-- sounds like a day that turned to the good!:

High snow banks back road
huge plow truck coming other way
headlights blinding me

Get home and find that
my neighbor plowed my driveway
winter is the best.

And from Texas, truth from TallTenor:

Texas has a plow,
One for all the state to share.
So goes the rumor.

DDR had this to say:

Plowy McPlowFace
I see you racing past me
Sparks fly! Salt showers!

And IPLawGuy, in the space between MN and TX, had this in-between viewpoint:

Prediction: 3 inches
Trucks line up on interstate
Waiting to drop salt.

Sunday, March 07, 2021


Sunday Reflection: Righteous Anger


Today I am giving the sermon at First Covenant Church Minneapolis. (I'm also being interviewed for NPR's Background Briefing with Ian Masters, which will air today at 2 eastern most places).

The topic of the sermon is the remarkable passage in John 2 where Jesus makes a whip (!) and then goes into the Temple to drive out the cattle and sheep and overturn the tables of the moneychangers. I remember reading that as a kid and finding that thrilling-- the whole scene of chaos and principle. It was my introduction to righteous anger, which is the topic of the sermon. If you want to listen, here you go:


As I was driving to the church to tape the sermon, I was listening to an old CD and Handsome Boy Modeling School's The Truth came on. It's a great song-- all barroom piano and featuring a rap about criminal law-- but the bass grabbed me.

And that made me think this: that righteous anger isn't a wailing guitar solo. It's long, low bass notes that seem like they have been there forever, waiting to come up to the surface. And when they do... well, I hope you will listen to the sermon.

Saturday, March 06, 2021


Up now at CNN...


Up now at CNN is my take on the upcoming George Floyd trial. You can read it here.

Friday, March 05, 2021


Haiku Friday: Snowplows


A great story in the New York Times reports on the new names being given to snowplows in Minnesota. Among the winning names in a contest to determine the new monikers: 

F. Salt Fitzgerald
Darth Blader
Snowbi Wan Kenobi
Plowy McPlowface
Ope- Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya
Truck Formerly Known as Plow
Duck Duck Orange Truck
Those last three are just straight up inside jokes. "Ope" is something Minnesotans say when we bump into someone. I don't know why. But I do it now. "Truck Formerly Known as Plow" is a Prince reference. And Duck Duck Orange Duck... hoo boy. For some reason, people here don't act like normal people and play "Duck Duck Goose." Instead, and I'm not making this up, they play "Duck Duck Grey Duck."
Anyways, haiku about all this mess, snowplows, Minnesota, or whatever the hell you want. I'm just going to follow Snowbi Wan Kenobi all the way home.
But I will go first with this haiku:
I wake to the snow
Listening for the sound, hark!
The plow on my block.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, March 04, 2021


Political Mayhem Thursday: A Bad Week for Governors


It's been a tough week for governors.

First, there is Andrew Cuomo, who has been confronted with the testimony of at least three former staffers who say he was inappropriate in his interactions with them. The picture above, of Cuomo with one of the former staffers, sure didn't help his cause. He made a public statement yesterday that combined apology with a vow not to resign.

Then there is Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who went on "Face the Nation" not expecting (somehow) to be asked about South Dakotas bad record on COVID:

Then, finally, we have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who announced that he was lifting all Covid-related restrictions and the state's mask mandate. Amid jockeying for position in the 2022 governor's race (Beto O'Rourke, among others, may run against him), he took some heat.

Meanwhile, here in MN, things are pretty good, actually.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021


My Students: Dillon Meek

 I'm devoting Wednesdays on the blog to profiling some of my former students, alternating between Baylor and St. Thomas. It's been pretty fascinating to catch up with what they are doing out in the world!

Dillon Meek graduated just as I was leaving Baylor in 2010, putting him in with a group of some of the more fascinating students I encountered there (including Joy Tull and Michelle Tuegel, who have already been profiled). 

After graduating, Dillon stayed in Waco, working for a local law firm and then transitioning to a general counsel job with a local company. In 2015, he ran for City Council and won. One of his issues while he was on the council was addressing the problems with payday lending companies, which were a real problem in Waco when I was there-- they charged outrageous interest rates and trapped people in debt. 

In 2020, he was elected the Mayor of Waco. When I moved to Waco, one of my colleagues, Mike Morrison, was the mayor, so I got a sense of what was involved. It's a tricky job, with shifting coalitions always at work and a need to balance divergent interests. Dillon certainly seems to have the skill set for it, and I'm happy to see him succeeding!

Tuesday, March 02, 2021


Obama Memories


[If you are wondering, the picture above was taken outside of a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, in 2015. It's not a great likeness, but I appreciated the gesture. One man walked by and said "Your President! From Hawaii!" Which I suppose is accurate]

I've begun reading the Obama memoir, "A Promised Land," and it is excellent. Unlike some public figures, Obama is a gifted writer, and has a deft hand with storytelling. I had just finished Bob Woodward's book about Donald Trump, "Rage," before I started Obama's and the contrast between the two men is, well, you know... yuge. 

A striking aspect of the memoir is Obama's honesty in describing his rough patches. He was kind of a mess in high school, for example, and into college. But after he transferred to Columbia (after two years at Occidental), he settled into a nearly solitary life of reading and imagining. That seems to be the platform from which he launched. There are things he doesn't adequately address, of course-- for example, he explains not seeking a clerkship after being editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review by dismissing it as not being interesting to him. Really? 

If you have read Michelle Obama's excellent memoir, "Becoming," her husband's memoir is a good complement. They don't tell the same stories, though they obviously intersect. 

Though I spent several years criticizing Obama (here and here and here and here and here and in a rant at the WH itself) for not acting quickly enough or thoroughly enough on clemency, I deeply admire him. It's wonderful to get a fuller picture of his presidency in whole.

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