Sunday, July 31, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Personal Theology


Every once in a while, I like to set out my personal theology. It's good for me in a few ways: It forces me to revisit what I believe and to think about accountability to those beliefs. And when I do this exercise, I notice that my theology shifts over time.

I'm not a creedalist. I don't say oaths and creeds or accept them. Matthew 5 makes it pretty clear that we are not supposed to swear to things, after all. That means that I'll never say "My personal theology is the Nicene Creed!" or anything like that. It wouldn't be true. And it probably isn't true for a lot of people who say that. It makes for an awkward moment in church when I fall quiet during that part of the service. Creeds don't change; my theology does.

So, here is what I believe:

1) My first rule, and the most important, is that there is a God and it isn't me. That sounds almost ridiculously simple, but it changes everything. If there is a God and it isn't me, that means that there is an awful lot I don't know and am not capable of understanding. That confession of ignorance is humbling and transformative.

2) I believe that Christ transformed the moral world from one based on rules to one based on principles. That may seem odd for a lawyer, but think about my work with clemency-- a project that relies on principles to subvert rules. Most clearly, Jesus directed this when he gave us the two great commandments in a response to the question of which of the Mosaic laws was most important.

3) Those two commandments-- love your God and love your neighbor-- are what I try to use to structure my actions. I fail, often, but living out those two commandments is my goal.

4) Also, I reject the construct that directs that loving your God means that you have to condemn your neighbor. "Love your neighbor as yourself" really steers away from that. And my neighbor includes those who are despised by society: Jesus makes that clear in the story of the Good Samaritan, which was a response to the question "Who is my neighbor?"

5) The Bible reveals who Jesus was and is to me. I worship Jesus, not the Bible; so I care a LOT about what Jesus says to do and almost nothing about what Paul or the authors of the Old Testament say to do. Those others provide important context, deep truths and epic storytelling at times, but Jesus is singular and not every word in the Bible is of equal import. I don't think God wrote the book, or that it only contains literal truths-- and the book itself does not make that claim. But the most important truths of all to me are there.

And that's pretty much it.

For now.

Saturday, July 30, 2022


Scamming the scammers


Friday, July 29, 2022


Haiku Friday: In the Kitchen


Behold, the "Chef's Torch," which is apparently used to blast flame directly onto your food! It sounds super-fun, but I'd be too prone to using it for unapproved purposes.

The kitchen is full of fascinating things. For example, I have a favorite knife, a santuko, that I am quite loyal to. Other knives sit ignored while I reach for the same one over and over. 

Let's haiku about kitchen implements this week-- or anything you find in or near the kitchen. Here, I will go first:

King of spatulas
Your silver plane cuts through all
May you never die.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2022


PMT: Way too much fun in Jersey


The Senate race in Pennsylvania is an important one, with an open seat as Republican Bob Casey retires. Two complete characters are running against one another. For the Republicans, we have Dr. Oz, the supplement huckster who became a Trump favorite. For the Democrats, we have John Fetterman, the current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, a big guy who just suffered a serious stroke. 

The Fetterman campaign has had a lot of fun with the fact that Dr. Oz either lived in New Jersey or still lives there, depending on the current theory. Most recently, they posted this video from Steven Van Zandt, the actor and E Street Band member.

In the end, it will matter that Fetterman and Oz have very different policy positions. Or maybe it won't. Politics are like that these days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Old Clothes


As I was hanging things up in my closet the other day, I realized that I haven't bought any new clothes (other than wear-and-tear items like socks and a few emergency shirts) in at least a decade. My suits, with two exceptions, are from the last century. So are most of my jackets and even my summer polo shirts.

I'm not saying this in a way to show that I need new clothes-- I don't. I have plenty of good clothes. But I suppose I got to a point where I just didn't want to get anything new. I'm hoping that what I have is classic enough-- simple shapes and forms-- that it won't matter.

Of course, other people may see things very differently than I do; they may notice. But I don't really care. 

My parents found a wooden bowl in the basement. It is a rarity, made from a single piece of wood. The bowl is a little dinged up, but beautiful. They brought it up and gave it a place of honor on the porch, where summer is lived. How good is that?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022




Every summer, I tell myself it is going to be time for some time off-- a little "self care" after a busy year. But it rarely works out that way, and this summer has been no exception.

Usually, some special project crops up and sucks up most of my time and energy, and that has happened once again. Our County Attorney asked me to head up a committee to come up with ideas to combat a rise in violent crime, and, well... you can imagine. I have great people on my committee and I think we are moving towards something really good, but wow it takes a lot of effort to make anything actually move.

Then last week I found myself in NYC and DC for academic and advocacy events. I worked on a mentoring project and presented a paper at "CrimFest," which is one of my favorite academic meetings. Yeah, it sounds like a festival of crime, but it is pretty much just people like me comparing notes. Then I headed to DC for an event at the Rayburn House Office Building, where I interviewed the Pardon Attorney and served on a panel to talk about clemency for those convicted of marijuana offenses in places where what they did is not legal under state law. 

On the public safety project, I hope to be able to say more soon....

Monday, July 25, 2022


Our Insect Friends


Wow! There were some great poems about insects last Friday! This classic from my dad:

I will again this
summer donate my blood to
local mosquitoes.

We will give sweetness
to all of the visiting
butterflies once more,

I am willing to
lose some bits of my ankles
to vicious black flies,

We will excuse the
wasps, hornets, honeybee stings
as being our fault

but when no-see-ums
fly into my eyes when both
of my hands are full

I rethink all of
my thoughts about the goodness
of mother nature.

A great one from Dr. Daniel Price:

Crickets, honeybees,
and moths--from omnipresent
to wholly absent.

We do have spiders
that the old cat eats, keeping
the vet in clover.

And from Michimom:

At dusk on the lake
a dragonfly drifts through a
cloud of mosquitoes.

There was a strong anonymous entry:

I do love crickets
Musicians of the summer
Singing to us all.

And, of course, we heard from Desiree (who has a Ph.D. in, um, insects):

Cicada summer
brings magical creatures to
the surface with us.

Sunday, July 24, 2022


Sunday Reflection: We Aren't the Champions


If you are like me, you fantasize about winning. Winning whatever: a game, the challenge at work, an election. Personally, I would love to win the fight to change the clemency process in my state and the nation.

It's at the center of our culture, this idea of winning. Movies use this as the mechanism to make us care about events; we come to love a character and want them to win-- they are an extension of us.

But we weren't told to be champions. We were told to be servants.

And the thing about servanthood is that it is about action, not the result and acclaim. We have to accept that the actions of servanthood are worthwhile, even while we are not celebrated. 

Of all of the gulfs between our culture and our faith, this may be the greatest.

Saturday, July 23, 2022


The best part

 If you missed the Jan. 6 hearings on Thursday, you might enjoy catching up with this outtake from Pres. Trump's speech on Jan. 7:

Friday, July 22, 2022


Haiku Friday: The good insects


I've noticed something missing from summer lately: the Monarch butterflies that migrate this way in a normal year. It turns out their numbers have crashed due to climate change and habitat loss. 

Still, there are the fat bumblebees that fill the back yard. Let's haiku about some of our favorite insects this week. Here, I will go first:

I watch them at work
The buzzy, busy fat bees
They have returned.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2022


Political Mayhem Thursday: Manchin


Once again, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has abruptly upended President Joe Biden's plans, this time by pulling his support for tax and climate plans he had worked on for months with the White House. Because the Senate is evenly split and Republicans are loathe to support Biden's ideas, those legislative proposals are done with.

There is a lot going on here:

-- The split Senate makes Manchin a very powerful man, and he knows it. 

-- Manchin represents West Virginia, a very red state, and is up for re-election in 2024. His actions are probably popular with his constituents.

-- Some people think he should be thrown out of the Democratic Party, but that is a terrible idea. Without him, Dems lose control of the Senate and the ability to get anything at all done, not to mention the chairs of committees.

-- In reaction to Manchin's obstructions, the Biden White House is once again drafting up executive orders. That's troubling, too-- these are issues that should be resolved through legislation, and constant unilateral decision by the White House brings always more power to that branch.

-- Finally, I think Manchin is someone who might actually say "AAAAAGH!"

I'd love to know IPLawGuy's thoughts on all this, but he is headed someplace in his unrestored 1971 AMC Javelin. I know, because he called me last night asking for recommendations for gas station chicken.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


New hobbies

 There have been a lot of downsides to the continuing COVID epidemic, not the least of which has been over a million people dying. 

Still, there are some bright spots. We all know how to use Zoom now, so there is that. Also, a lot of people picked up a new hobby. Some started knitting (actually a lot of people did), some tried biking or orienteering. I can't say I picked up a new hobby, though I did learn a lot of new things!

And check it out-- IPLawGuy has been working on his blacksmith skills for the past two years, and recently made this spoon:

Can you guess the intended purpose of this spoon? [the winner gets an... um.... a spoon]

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


The road to the end


In law, people talk about the "problem of the commons." In short, it means that if a resource is commonly available to all, people will maximize their own gain to the detriment of the whole-- they will exhaust the resource. Sometimes, this was described in terms of a town that share grazing land. To make it work long-term, no one person could over-graze it.

The Earth is the ultimate problem of the commons. Few nations are willing to give away they advantages they gain by creating climate change, so it there is destruction of the resource. 100 degrees in England? Get used to it. No water in Lake Powell? Well... we could have seen that coming.

And there seems to be no real leadership to resolve the problem.

Monday, July 18, 2022


Poems of the outdoors

 I asked for haiku about the outdoors, and I got it!

There was this from Desiree:

Perfect summer night --
debating best s'mores technique
around the fire pit.

And one from Christine:

Walk the garden path
The hummingbirds seek nectar
And buzz past my head

My dad contributed:

They were always there
unheard and unseen until
I wandered outside

And so did Jill Scoggins:

This Texas girl spies…
Is it really? At U of
L? It is! Cactus!

Sunday, July 17, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Deconstructing Faith

 A number of people I know have recently gone through a "deconstruction" of their faith, which has usually led to to their leaving behind their denomination-- and sometime their belief in God altogether.

In some cases, it sounds like a Jenga game coming undone-- one piece was challenged and removed (say, recognizing the problems with gender in a denomination) and then the whole pile collapses. More often, it is a central tenet of their faith. But almost always it seems to stem from an initial event that involves the people of the church.

And the people of the church aren't doing that great, frankly. COVID decimated some congregations, which have withered and led to a retrenchment. The most stolid, conservative people are sometimes the ones who stayed, leading to an hostility perceived by others. The clergy, turned around and exhausted by all this, seems to be taking a voluntary layoff-- there are a remarkable number of clergy who seem to be taking a three-month sabbatical this summer, while others have just... left. And the Trump takeover of some churches hurts us all, as "being Christian" is now taken to mean that you don't like certain kinds of people. 

That means spiritual needs aren't being served very well. And the fray is more than just at the fringe.

Saturday, July 16, 2022


Key Questions for the Big 10/16


Looking back at this video, I have a few questions:

-- Is the USC Trojan guy going to be up for this sort of thing? He seems not-so-fun.
-- I'd never even heard of UCLA's mascot, when I looked it up "Joe Bruin" seemed pretty lame
-- Also, why is Willie Wildcat from Northwestern never a part of these things? Maybe he and Joe Bruin can hang around and watch other people play video games or something.

Friday, July 15, 2022


Haiku Friday: Outdoor spaces


It's mid-summer, and the living is good. Especially if you can find a great space outside on a beautiful day. Let's haiku about those spots today, be it a patio, porch, field, campsite, or whatever!

Here, I will go first:

The secret garden
Full of art and brash flowers
And also my heart.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2022


PMT: More lessons from Uvalde

 Yesterday, something my dad said really stuck with me. We were talking on the phone about some new video that emerged from the murders in Uvalde, Texas, which show fully armed police officers milling around and checking their phones as children are slaughtered within a classroom. At one point the officers creep toward the classroom but when they hear gunfire they retreat.

"They were that scared of just one teenager with that particular type of gun," my dad said. And he was right. 

Is there really any sane reason for NOT imposing a ban on guns with. a high muzzle velocity (the factor that makes an AR-15 so lethal)?

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


December 18, 2020


Sure, January 6, 2021 was pretty crazy. But it sounds like what happened in the White House on December 18, 2020 was right up there.

According to evidence now coming out, on that day there was a 6+ hour meeting where two factions faced off for and against a proposed plan to maintain power despite the election results. That plan involved the following steps:

-- First, have the Secretary of Defense seize voting machines in swing states
-- Second, appoint a special counsel to prosecute people for "crimes" relating to the election
-- Third... well, thats unclear.
-- Four, "win" the election retroactively.

The whole thing was kind of like this famous South Park plan:

Tuesday, July 12, 2022


Going Home Again

 This past Sunday, I got to give a sermon in the church where I grew up. That is kind of a surreal experience: In the pulpit, I kept thinking of the people who were there preaching when I was a kid. I remember clearly having this dialogue in my head with them, a back and forth where I was agreeing and disagreeing with what they had to say.

It was wonderful. There were family and old friends and some new ones there. It's a little church, which turns out to be where I usually fit in, and as I spoke I got to look out and see how it was striking each of them. 

If you are interested, you can watch it here

Monday, July 11, 2022


Grill Poems

Ah, summer! Welcome back IPLawguy, and thank you for this:

Grilling and Smoking
Simple and complicated
Always satisfies.

And my dad!:

When preoccupied
and forget that I'm grilling
deep dark trouble lurks.

Christine came to visit:

Charcoal, ashy gray
Hot dogs sizzle and blister
Til perfectly cooked.

And there was this anonymous entry I can relate to:

Grilling the beef? Good!
Grilling the fish? Good! Cleaning
the grill? Peace, I’m out.

Sunday, July 10, 2022


Sunday Reflection: The Greens of Summer


To me, summer is all about color:
The blue of water, and of the sky.
The green of the life springing out of the ground.
The stark white of the moon coming up over it all.
The yellow of the sun.
The red of the cardinal that swoops in front of my bike.
The purple of the flowers that fill the back yard.
Winter (at least in Minnesota) is a world in grayscale. It is amazing that the exact same place can be this riot of color just because of the change of the seasons.
What a creation!

Saturday, July 09, 2022


A little busy

 For it being summer and all, there is a lot going on!

I have a little piece up at Law360, which you can read here. I also was quoted a few times in this New York Times report on the Chauvin sentencing, which I also discussed with the AP and NPR's All Things Considered.

But mostly I am still kind of in shock that UCLA and USC are joining the Big 10, which will now have 16 teams and look like this:

Friday, July 08, 2022


Haiku Friday: On the Grill


Ah, summer! Time to hit the grill, and the haiku. Let's haiku about cooking outdoors. Here, I will go first:

IPLawGuy said
Grill the chicken low and slow
[But not too low, Dude!]

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

Thursday, July 07, 2022


Political Mayhem Thursday: Trains


The Washington Post had a fascinating piece on the future of trains in the US, and the complicated and too-often contentious relationship between passenger and freight lines on the rails. 

I love passenger trains. I've taken Amtrak a number of times, including from Chicago to the West Coast when I was just 16.  I'm hoping that Amtrak is able to expand their network. The money is there now-- they just need to negotiate the rights to use the existing freight railways for new routes. 

Some of the proposed new routes seem like no-brainers, such as LA to Las Vegas or Dallas toe Houston. Others-- like the Cheyenne WY to Pueblo CO spur-- seem a little more speculative. I am hoping they get some new rolling stock-- some of their trains are ollllldddd.

We spend a ton of resources on roads. It makes sense to spend at least a small fraction of that on giving rail service a chance.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022




Maybe it's just me-- but it seems like people were a little less enthusiastic about the 4th of July this year. It seems like shows of patriotism, even flying flags, is seen as a political act in support of the right now. What poison that is! 

I went to the parade in my town. There were lots of bands, and veterans, and many politicians (including Amy Klobuchar) walked down 50th Street surrounded by supporters and an arrow pointing to them with their name. 

One guy was yelling to the crowd "wave your flags!" but hardly anyone had a flag. There were three Boy Scouts. 

The biggest group was "Moms Demand Action," which tells you something-- I was glad to see them. 

But I fear we are losing the things that held us together.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022


July 4, 2022

 Lake Harriett, Minneapolis:

Monday, July 04, 2022


Sea Poems

 Happy 4th of July! And perhaps some of you are by the water. All of us can enjoy these great poems about the sea... 

We had this gem from Gavin:

Clad in pink she wades
Waves nip her ankles, she laughs
She yells “Daddy, come!”

And I loved my dad's:

Each wave has a life
aided by a breeze it makes
it across the lake

'Til its journey ends
at my feet too exhausted
to tell its story.

Desiree came with the heat:

Their home is the sea,
but in summer they emerge
to lay turtle eggs.

Megan Willome clearly isn't from Minnesota!:

The sea doesn't want
me now — wait until winter,
right after Christmas.

But so much brilliance from Jill Scoggins! This:

The beach has a light
that comes just before sunset.
Gold, like no other.

And this:

Gulls call overhead.
They swoop and spin seeking food.
We shoo them away.

And this:

Mama’s beach house: My
Crystal Beach home. Pot’s always
on: Crabs, crawfish, shrimp.

And this (Did she really have an IH Scout?):

“Let’s ride the beach!” Joe
says. We pile in the Scout. Greet
friends, strangers alike.

And this:

Whoooosh the peaceful Whoooosh
of the waves Whoooosh lulls us Whooosh
to sleep Whoooosh Whooosh Whooosh

And this!:

Sunburns and jelly
fish stings. Tar balls wash up from
the Gulf rigs. So what?

You see, my weekends
always had a pot over
a propane burner.

Somethin’ good cookin’.
Fam’ly and friends. Shorts, flip flops,
swimsuit. Nothing more

needed. Our beach house
was the center of the world.
It drew us all in.

Sunday, July 03, 2022


Sunday Reflection: The long days of summer


A few nights ago I was out on the Terrace at the Univ. of Wisconsin student union. There was great scene and great food. The day was long-- this picture was taken at about 9:30 pm. 

In the upper midwest, we appreciate every day like that, because it doesn't last. There are other pleasures in the winter, of course, but that is about as good as it gets.

It's not so bad to be a tiny tiny part of this vast universe, don't you think?

Saturday, July 02, 2022


The Republican Primary debate/candidates for Wyoming House

 Posted without comment.

Friday, July 01, 2022


Haiku Friday: The Sea


It's there all year, but we usually think of the sea in the summer (unless you are a pirate). Let's haiku about that this week (though poems about lakes, rivers, and streams are also allowed). Here, I will go first:

I love the gray birds
That dash from a wave then turn,
Digging for sand bugs.

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

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