Friday, September 30, 2022


Haiku Friday: Storms


They surprise us, they scare us, they change our lives. Storms are beyond our control, and sometimes control us. Let's haiku this week about those untamed things. Here, I will go first:

The Devil's Tower
Late in the day, clouds gather
Animals run past.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Hurricane Mayhem Thursday


Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida at mid-day yesterday, and the devastation is significant. The West Coast of the peninsula is particularly vulnerable, and cities including Fort Myers, Naples, and Tampa got hit pretty hard.

It's a massive storm still, and will probably go out to sea and then come back again to hit South Carolina's coast next. The warming of the Gulf of Mexico is making these storms more intense, and there are more where Ian came from, unfortunately.

There have always been storms, of course-- that is nothing new. But our building up next to the ocean and the increasing intensity of storms means that the destruction is going to be greater than in the past. 

I hope people are safe, and the recovery is swift.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Oh, Texas!


I liked living in Texas. Really, I did-- and some of my favorite people are there. But... the politics are crazy.

It's a mystery how Texans can re-elect a sniveling turd like Ted Cruz, for example. He's whiny and arrogant and snide-- all contrary to the attributes valued most by the Texans I know. 

And then there is the guy pictured above, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. He's basically been in legal trouble most of the time he has been in office, which is not something we usually hope for in a top legal official. Most recently, he tried to evade a process server. Here is the scene as described by the Texas Tribune:

Tuesday, September 27, 2022


Planet defended!


Yesterday, NASA moved an asteroid that was 7 million miles from earth by shooting a spacecraft at it. It worked! 

The idea was to test out whether we might be able to alter the trajectory of a big object hurtling towards Earth. Which... maybe we can, which is good.

I'll be honest: I never ever worried about a giant object hitting Earth until I heard about this test. But now I can't get it out of my head!

Monday, September 26, 2022


A few good poems


I guess not everyone else was as excited with the topic of "rides" as I was. But we did get two good poems:

From IPLawGuy:

Better than ring toss
Weird carny game, won the bear
Bonus: a stray child.

And from my dad:

Young man, please go on
the roller coaster with my
kids? They held my hands.

Sunday, September 25, 2022


Sunday Reflection: Insiders and Outsiders


My Sunday School has been reading Paul's letter to the Galatians, which frankly seems like it is written by three or four different people. It is sometimes as clear as a January sky and other times leaden and confusing. Over all, though, it is all about a central debate of that time: whether the people of the Way (the earliest Christians) should include only people who followed the Jewish laws or open themselves to Gentiles. Paul is arguing for broader inclusion.

It's a debate we still have, unfortunately. I'm always struck by how much effort Christians at times put towards separating themselves from others through church schisms, demands for orthodoxy, and excommunication of one type or another. It's a strange focus, and probably one cause of the shrinking of the church in this time that demands compassion and breadth.

Any church I'll be a part of is going to include people who haven't followed all the supposed rules or don't believe in all of them (and that group includes me). If someone wants to search for God and meaning with me, that's enough in my book.  

Saturday, September 24, 2022



 I'm not quite sure what this is. But I kind of like it.

Friday, September 23, 2022


Haiku Friday: Rides!


People around the world (well, except in Detroit) were horrified by the poorly-designed new Giant Slide at Belle Isle in Detroit. And it made me think rides would be a good topic for the Razor!
IPLawGuy is kind of an affecionado of amusement part rides, especially those at run-down out of the way places like Nobeilles Gun Range & Amusement Park in Pennsylvania. "I'll be honest," he told me, "the whole thing has come at a cost. I originally had five kids, but... you know. Anyways, they're pretty safe if you follow the rules and are lucky." 
So let's haiku about those this week! Here is mine:
Bob-Lo Island trip
Went bad on the giant swing;
Date laminated.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2022


PMT: The End of the War


For those of you who tuned it out after a while, some important things are happening in the war in Ukraine. Late in the summer, Ukraine began a largely successful counter-offensive and has regained much of Northeast Ukraine from Russian forces. This week, Russia partially mobilized its reservists, which reflects the failures of their current fighters.

In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman described three possible outcomes:

1) Ukraine could continue its advance and recover all of its lost territory, possibly including Crimea, as Russian forces collapse.

2) A deal is cut soon that pretty much freezes the status quo, with Russia retaining much of its captured territory and probably annexing some of it.

3) A deal is cut that leaves the lines where they were before the Russian invasion.

There is, of course, a fourth possible outcome that was not mentioned:

4) Russia regroups and over-runs Ukraine.

And, realistically, a fifth one:

5) The war expands (possibly through the use of nuclear weapons) to the rest of Europe and possibly the world.

One would imagine that Russia would prefer option 4 but might accept 2. Ukraine would want option 1 but might accept 3.  The European Union, which is paying a high economic price for this war, probably wants option 2, preferably before winter and the need for heating oil increases. 

No one really wants 5. But that doesn't mean it can't happen-- and accepting one of the compromise options may be the best way to avoid it, some will argue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


New at The Hill


Do I have opinions about crime? Well, yes I do! And I put down some of them in this piece up now at The Hill.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Guns and airports

 Maybe not everyone will find this as fascinating as I do, but check out this chart showing the top 10 airports for gun seizures by the TSA:

Intriguing! Eight out of ten of these airports (the exceptions being New Orleans and Denver) are in a state with a Republican Governor and a Republican legislature. But, somehow, those states have more crime of this type. Hmm.

It's also interesting to consider the huge airports that are NOT on this list, which is pretty much a run-down of the scary scary places depicted as crazytowns on Fox News:
-- Chicago O'Hare (and Midway)
-- New York's JFK
-- New York's LaGuardia
-- LAX
-- San Francisco
--  Detroit
-- Newark
-- Minneapolis/St. Paul
-- Baltimore/Washington International

Monday, September 19, 2022


Fast takes on fast food


On the topic of fast food, Christine had three entries (all worthwhile), but this one was the absolute best-- it brought back great memories of getting fried chicken in a paper barn:

On most Fridays we
stopped at The Red Barn after
getting Dad at work.

Mary Senneka had a gem, too, that brought back memories (though I worried about Jeff):

When Dad was away,
Mom took us to Burger Chef.
Now they are all gone.

(Dad, Mom and Burger Chef.)

Jill Scoggins had a firm opinion (that I disagree with, but it's a matter of taste and Whataburger tastes like gristle):

Best burger: Shake Shack?
In-N-Out? Smashburger? NO!
It’s Whataburger.

And Desiree brought it up to the present day:

Friday drive to work.
She celebrates with hash browns
and egg McMuffin.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


Sunday Reflection: faith and school

 I spent the end of this week at Touro Law School out on Long Island at the conference of Religiously-Affiliated Law Schools.  I was on the organizing committee, and was really happy to see many of my old friends from schools that are linked to Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic entities. It was at one of these gatherings that I first got to know Ken Starr (the subject of a piece I have in the Waco Tribune Herald today-- you can read that here).

It's worth it to be engaged with groups like this. I really believe in what we are able to do at these schools for the students who really desire to study and develop a vocation in an environment that can build and draw from their faith. It's not for everyone-- teacher or student-- but it is for some the right kind of place. 

It's no mistake that I've spent my entire teaching career at schools that are affiliated with the Baptist (Baylor) and Catholic (St. Thomas) faiths. Because my own goals and actions are (usually) so tied to my religious beliefs, I probably would not fit in very well at a secular institution. 

The most important thing I do is teach. It's a joy to have that be integrated with what is in my heart.

Saturday, September 17, 2022


Commentary on the My Pillow Guy

My Pillow comes up about halfway through, along with making fun of the names of Minnesota cities. 

Friday, September 16, 2022


Haiku Friday: Fast Food


Earlier this week, the My Pillow Guy (even his idol Donald Trump refers to him that way) was approached by federal agents who had a warrant to seize his phone. One reason this got a lot of attention is because of where this happened: At a Hardee's here in Minnesota. 

I'll be honest-- I didn't know there were still any Hardee's IN Minnesota. But there you go!

Hardee's, of course, used the incident as a way to sell burgers, tweeting "Now that you've heard of us, try our pillowy biscuits!"

Ah, fast food. Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:

So, Burger King's font
What's going on with that? It's
'72 again!

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

Thursday, September 15, 2022


Political Mayhem Thursday: Reform Through Insurance


A fascinating piece now in the Washington Post highlights a striking new development: police reforms implemented because insurers demanded it.

In several places across the country, two specific reforms-- the reduction of high-speed chases and lessening the police's use of force-- are being driven by insurance companies that have threatened to jack up rates if changes aren't made.

This kind of reform-by-insurance is nothing new. A raft of narcotics task forces in Texas repeatedly got in trouble for racist practices. What drove them out of business is that they no longer could get insurance. 

Sometimes, it is these private (and self-interested) interventions that make the biggest difference because we live in a culture where budgets can mean a lot more than protests. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


The Death of Ken Starr


Yesterday, former Whitewater special prosecutor, Brett Kavanaugh-employer, US Solicitor General, Judge, and Baylor President Ken Starr died at age 76 from medical issues during surgery. 
He was a complicated person, and I have complicated feelings about him, though I wish peace on his soul and his family at what must be a hard time. I knew him, personally, and had many interactions with him over the years, beginning not long after I came to Baylor in 2000. I was asked to moderate a panel at Pepperdine, and found out the panelists were Starr and OJ Simpson defense lawyer Johnny Cochran (though Cochran ended up getting sick and couldn't do it). It was interesting duty for new faculty, but a good conversation. After that, when he served as Dean at Pepperdine's law school, I saw him fairly regularly. I visited his home, and the photo above depicts him standing in front our house in Waco.
Later, when he became president of Baylor (just as I was leaving) I was publicly supportive of the hire. Wacoan Magazine asked me to interview him, and when I did so he came over to my office on a hot summer day and we talked for a few hours. One thing I was struck by in our conversation was that he was a person capable of being chastened, which is rare in those who have had power. I was optimistic that he would be good for the school, and in many ways he was. Ultimately, things turned into kind of a disaster as a sexual assault scandal blew up under his watch. I was surprised that in the end he didn't retain a role at the law school there.
I last spoke to him a few years ago when I called him up about a clemency case. It turned out we were both in DC at that moment. I think that he always found me a little bit puzzling, and I find him puzzling, as well. He had a remarkable intellect and a personal warmth that opened a lot of doors for him. I suppose, like me, sometimes he didn't know quite what to do when he got to the other side of those doors. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


I still love radio


When I was in college, I spent four years working at the William and Mary student-run radio station, WCWM. In fact, that's how I met IPLawGuy-- he was the station manager when I was a freshman hosting a show from midnight until 3 am on Saturday nights (it should have been called "For the Drunks Out There Driving Home").  
I still love radio, and it's my favorite medium to work with as an advocate. Yeah, yeah, I know-- I have a face for radio-- but there is something kind of magic about it. My great-grandparents were a part of the founding of one of the the first radio stations in the US, KDKA in Pittsburgh.  
Yesterday, WCCO asked for an interview about my work on violent crime, so I walked over and did it it person. (You can hear the interview here). I have listened to and enjoyed Adam and Jordana's show, so that was an easy 'yes.' It's great to do it in-studio, both for audio quality and visual cues, and I like seeing how it all works. Usually, of course, I have to do them over the phone-- in fact, I once did one with Audie Cornish on NPR's "All Things Considered" from behind the lodge while IPLawGuy and I were out west skiing.
There is too much information overload sometimes, and the fact that radio offers just one sensory input is a way to get away from all that! 

Monday, September 12, 2022


Well, then...

 Hey! I thought the topic of "kids" was a great one for haiku Friday, but apparently almost no one else did-- we only got two entries!

There was this work of smartitude from our friend the Medievalist:

Bizarre short people,
Boogers running everywhere,
“I do not feel sick!”

And an anonymous entry:

Running for miles
We covered the neighborhoods
Skinny guys in shorts.

Sunday, September 11, 2022


Sunday Reflection: The end of summer


Yesterday I went to a college football game-- the University of Minnesota vs. the Western Illinois Leathernecks. It wasn't a very close game, but it was a fantastic day. It was warm-but-not-hot (about 65), and the sun came out. The place was full of people starting college, or continuing college, or who went to college at some point, or didn't go to college but really like that team. Goldy the Gopher had to do 353 pushups, which the local paper appropriately treated as the most important part of the whole show.

It's a poignant time, this shift to fall. It's perfect bike-riding weather, the time when (if you do what I do) work shifts into gear, and things seem to matter more.

Back in Michigan, there was a church near my house that literally closed for the summer. I found that kind of amazing, but it also makes sense. As I've described here before, we are built for cycles, for seasons and change. Not every moment is equal. There is a time to rest, and a time to swing back into things.

I hope that we are recovering from COVID in a way that allows for that-- which brings us back to everything, including our faith lives, with a renewed vigor. We need it, our churches need it, and so does the world.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

 Remember that one time, when we fought an entire revolutionary war against the British monarchy because we found it repugnant? And they had a "King George?" And then we formed a Republic, where we don't care about royalty? That was cool.

Friday, September 09, 2022


Haiku Friday: Kids


Kids-- they're everywhere (except Florida, where they aren't allowed). They are fascinating to observe, even when they are not yours. Let's haiku about these strange little people this week (even if it is just about you in a different time).

Here, I will go first:

"Get out of my tree!"
Yelled no one ever to
The tiny tree fairy.

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

Thursday, September 08, 2022


Political Mayhem Thursday: Candidates on the fringe

Things were looking pretty good for Republicans in the mid-terms not so long ago, and it may well turn out that they make gains in the elections in November. But in a lot of places they are hampered by candidates on the fringes who won primaries but are unlikely to win what otherwise would be winnable races on the general election.

That's certainly true here in Minnesota, where the Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor now trail the Democratic incumbents by 18 points. The gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Scott Jensen is an anti-vaxxer who seems obsessed with Ivermectin and has a lot of trouble staying on message. His running mate, former football player Matt Birk, is even more fringe-y, in that it seems he may actually be a resident of Florida (or at least likes it better there, except in the summer). I mean, c'mon, Republicans! At least nominate candidates from the correct state!

Some Democrats are rejoicing over the opportunities this creates for them, but in truth the nation as a whole benefits from having two healthy parties that present different but honest policy positions rooted in the common good. I'm very nostalgic for the 2008 presidential campaign, when both general election candidates (McCain and Obama) were good honest public servants who would have done a good job.

If Republicans stumble in the mid-terms, it may jar them back to a reality that isn't dominated by Donald Trump's whims of the moment. 

Or maybe it won't.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022


Yankees beat Yankees


In 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees broke Yankee Babe Ruth's record for home runs in a season, when he hit 61. As this baseball season creaks to a finish, it looks like another Yankee, Aaron Judge, may surpass it. Judge has 54 homers, which means he needs eight more in the remaining 27 games to break the record. 

Judge is a pretty big guy-- 6'7" and 280 pounds-- who would make a pretty good football lineman, but has the incredible coordination it takes to hit a ball going 93 miles an hour. He's also pretty confident: at the start of the season he turned down a $200m+ contract extension, figuring he could do better after the season, and it looks like he was right.

Anyways, I still hate the Yankees!

Tuesday, September 06, 2022


It's On!


It's time for my guilty pleasure: watching college football! And it was kind of a big weekend.

-- My favorite teams all won, which is kind of rare. Michigan beat Colorado State 51-7. Baylor beat a team they shouldn't even be playing, SUNY-Albany (a BCS school, a division below the big cats). Minnesota dismantled New Mexica State, which at least is in Division I-A.  And Northwestern beat Nebraska (an outcome unimaginable not so long ago, but pretty normal these days).

-- I watched the crazy-crazy end of the UNC-Appalachian State game highlighted in the video above, which was time well spent. 

-- On Sunday (Sunday!) there was a doozy in which Florida State beat LSU despite making an incredibly dumb move by calling a pitch to a tailback when they were closing out the game. Here is how that worked out:

Monday, September 05, 2022


College Poems

 Yeah, y'all came through. And welcome back Dr. Daniel Price, with this intriguing piece!:

Every time one
of us gets a degree we
get another child

Correlation, and
not causation, but we are
not taking chances.

I love this one from Jill Scoggins:

R1, HSI,
ferpa, fafsa, NIL,
GA, BA, I.

PhD, RA,

ROTC, stem,
CV and more. In college,
acronyms abound.

And it's always great to hear from Desiree:

Son number two lived
In a high priced closet for
A year. Freshman fun!

And from Christine:

Dorm drop off over
Our future is in their hands
Hoping they will soar.

Finally, there was a good anonymous entry:

Sweeping out new room
Backing up the U-Haul truck
The beeping of Fall.

Sunday, September 04, 2022


Sunday Reflection: The Earth


I know and respect a lot of people who believe that protecting the Earth is a Christian imperative. I agree that it is an imperative, but the way I connect it to faith is a little more indirect.

For some, the importance of conservation is rooted in the Genesis creation story. I get that, but few people I know think that the creation story in Genesis is literally true. AND, it seems like those who believe in doing everything that desecrates the Earth cite to the same verses-- arguing that we were given custody of the Earth to use it to our immediate advantage.

I do think that we need to protect the Earth, and have done a lousy job of it. 

For me, as most of you know, a central tenet of my faith is humility, based on the truth that there is a God and it isn't me. That means that I can't know what God's creation really is, and how our actions will affect it. When corporations argue that removing a wetland here won't matter, I don't buy it-- we don't really know what the effect will be. And, of, course, this has been proven over and over as moves that were promised to be harmless turned out to be really damaging.

Climate change is real, and we are causing it. God isn't doing that-- we are. There is deep moral culpability in that.

Saturday, September 03, 2022


A winner!

 This conversation between me, Hampton Inn, and McGruff the Crime Dog is the strangest one I have had on Twitter (and that is saying something). What does McGruff mean by "Scurry?"

Friday, September 02, 2022


Haiku Friday: College!


It's Fall.... well, at least it's the start of the Fall semester, which is good enough for me. People are taking their kids off to college all across the country, and the anxiety and wonder are palpable if you are anywhere close to it.

So let's haiku about that this week-- your own experience or someone else's.  Like me, feel free to haiku about a school you didn't attend. Here, I will go first:

Football has begun!
My favorite sport of all
Let's go Wolverines!

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

Thursday, September 01, 2022


PMT: The Trump Documents


Donald Trump has poked the bear by claiming wrongdoing by the DOJ in the search of his home, and that may well prove to be a serious mistake.

The DOJ has one big tool: the discretion to charge people with crimes. The federal penal code is so deep and wide that it is pretty easy to charge people with crimes in multiple ways for a single act. DOJ lawyers get to choose when to go to the toolbox, and which tools to take out. The saw or the chisel? 

Yes, this is a much more perilous situation for Donald Trump than those he has faced in the past. He could be charged by a federal grand jury-- and that could happen sooner than people think. I would not be surprised to see an indictment in October... but Donald Trump will be surprised.

There are certain activities-- selling drugs, taking home secret and classified government information after leaving government service-- that can be charged multiple ways, or not at all. If you want to be charged, challenging the credibility of the DOJ is the way to go. And that is where Trump has gone.

But what about Hillary Clinton's emails?

Well, I said at the time that setting up a server in a bathtub at home to handle government communication as Secretary of State was a mistake and possibly criminal. And you'll remember that Jim Comey said pretty much the same thing when he said they were choosing not to charge.

So what's different? Well, in one case, Trump's, we know what the secret information was (or at least the FBI does). And Trump, unlike Clinton chose to rage against the prosecutors.

It may not be a principled way to choose who to charge, but no one near Trump could apparently convince him that it's the way the world works.

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