Tuesday, February 28, 2023


A Public Service Announcement re Scott Adams


Bonehead cartoonist Scott Adams, who draws the "Dilbert" comic strip, has seen his work removed from hundreds of newspapers in the last few days. The issue is that he has taken to posting videos where he makes straight-up racist arguments. For example, he has said that White people should "get the hell away from" Black people, and that referring to Black people as a "hate group." 
Even though Adams had been trending this way for a while, coming out for segregation seems to have been the last straw.
Here's the thing: newspapers no longer carrying "Dilbert" is not a deprivation of free speech. The right to free speech is a freedom from government action. No one has the right to force a paper to run anything you create-- and in fact, if the government did force papers to run Dilbert or someone's op-ed, that government action itself would be a legitimate violation of free speech! 
People have a right to voice their opinions. They don't have a right to have people like that opinion, pay for it, or amplify it.

Monday, February 27, 2023


Celebrity Encounters!


Great haiku, all-- so many celebrity encounters! 
This one from Campbell (pictured above with said celebrity) was awesome:

Met Alex Trebek
Exactly what you’d expect
Gracious, smart, funny

Met Alex Trebek
I fulfilled a lifelong dream
He was terrific

Met Alex Trebek
Won thirty-nine thousand bucks
It was a great day.

 I also loved this one from IPLawGuy (who was, uh, shopping for hats?):
Hat store, one mirror
Elegant lady and me
Wow! Ava Gabor!

IPLawGuy also met a baseball legend:

A childhood hero
Nats slugger Big Frank Howard
In line at Metro.
But did not meet Tom Hanks:
Tom Hanks, Ron Howard
Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
Did not say hello.
MKS met a not-really-a-celebrity:
Walking through skyways
I saw a familiar face.
It was Mark Osler. 
While the Medievalist met a real one:
I met Charlie Pride,
Was flying to Chicago,
A very nice singer.
As did Craig A (and I can imagine that scene....):
Joan Baez facing
me on other side of Heathrow
Airport mag rack; wow!
Tim had a bunch! (He must hang out in the right places). Like this one:
Stopped by the police
First in line to see Reagan
Lower glass to wave.
And this:
Working in North Oaks
Mondale interviewing some
Again stopped by cops.
And this!: 

Les Champs-Elysées
Looking for a special meal
Instead see Carter.

Sunday, February 26, 2023


What is love?


Over the course of my life as a professing Christian, I've struggled with the idea what it means to love others, even our enemies. 
What I've run into from people in authority, over and over, is the idea that sometimes loving someone means insisting that they change, or shunning them if they don't comply with the way a sect believes they should think or act. Even writing that, I feel myself getting mad-- how many times have I been told that love sometimes means rejecting or ostracizing others?
I don't buy it. I never have, and I never will. "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" (the Second Great Commandment) should never lead us to thinking that excluding others is a form of love. 
Don't get me wrong... I understand that some people are making bad choices. I was a prosecutor, after all, and I spend a lot of my time these days working with prosecutors and training people who will be prosecutors. I don't pretend, though, that locking someone up is some perverse form of love for the person imprisoned. That certainly is not how I would choose to be loved! 
But the exclusion of others urged by religious authorities rarely has to do with serious crimes (Paul and Moses were both murderers, after all). It usually has to do with LGBT people, or those who are suffering from addictions, or those who don't believe in the Trinity or the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Loving those who love us is easy-- it's reciprocal, after all, and we get something from it. Almost always, what Christ requires sacrifice, and that means loving those who don't love us back, or who refuse to.... well, be like we are.
Are we ready for that?

Saturday, February 25, 2023


"Darth Vader is Bad, and His Assistant is a Mouse"

 I just finished watching Game of Thrones, so this was especially funny to me:

Friday, February 24, 2023


Haiku Friday: Celebrity Encounters


Everyone has a story about some kind of an encounter with a celebrity. Let's haiku about those this week! Here, I will go first:
Jimmy Carter came
To hear me speak. Told me this:
"Do more, do it now." 
(I wrote about that encounter here
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: Tim Scott


It sure looks like South Carolina senator Tim Scott is running for President-- he is pictured about giving a speech in Des Moines, Iowa yesterday. 
Unfortunately, it looks like he is distancing himself from Donald Trump while embracing Trump's theme of "Everything in the US is Awful and It's a Terrible Place (because, Biden)." 
As the Republican field plumps out from the current contestants (Nikki Haley and Donald Trump), we can expect most of them to embrace this frame for their arguments-- at the debates, they should just let all of them cry at the same time for a while about sad and bad the United States is. 
The bizarre thing is that Scott describes the country as a morass even as claiming that Americans are hooked on "the drug of victimhood and the narcotic of despair." It's a weird combination of messages. Mostly, I suppose, it is in the service of vilifying Democrats, who are blamed for all these things (whether they occurred in the Trump era or the Biden era or before, it doesn't seem to matter). 

Tim Scott is someone-- unlike Trump-- who seems like he could deliver a more coherent and positive message even while criticizing the other side. It worked for Reagan, but that model does not seem to be in vogue these days....

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Snowed In


Yesterday, I celebrated by birthday by speaking at this conference which was held in the atrium of my law school. At lunch (during a public Q & A) I was able to ask former US Attorney General Eric Holder something I have long wondered about: Why didn't he take marijuana out of Schedule 1? The statute lays the decision at the feet of the AG (in consultation with the head of HHS).
He hemmed and hawed a bit, agreed it shouldn't be there, and then threw President Obama under the bus by claiming that politics above his level prevented it. The AG reports to only the President, of course, so it was an odd claim given that it is hard to imagine Obama having a strong belief that marijuana should be in schedule 1.
About 2:30, big flakes of snow began to fall outside the big windows. We all knew it was coming-- for days, forecasters have promised about two feet of snow here by Thursday.
I have firewood. I have snacks. Classes will be online, and I have a bunch of notes and my computer. 
In the end, it's just Minnesota being Minnesota....

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


President Carter in Context


During the Carter administration, Saturday Night Live was still pretty new-- they still had the original cast, with the single addition of Bill Murray in place of Chevy Chase.  I still think this is one of the best sketches ever, and it captures part of what people loved and hated about Jimmy Carter at the time. He was wicked smart-- a nuclear engineer from the Naval Academy-- though he presented himself as just a rural peanut farmer. He had expertise that came to really matter when the Three Mile Island nuclear plant melted down. Here they have some fun with that, and subtly, with the incomplete picture of himself that Carter as president gave to the world.

Monday, February 20, 2023


On weather of February

 Ah, such a harvest! I will review this weeks poems, going from South to North:
From the Medievalist, in Texas:
 Sunshine and cold fog,
Texas weather is nutty,
The north wind, cruel.
From Christine in North Carolina:
Magnolia blooms
Caught my eye other day
Way, way too early

Daffy's and crocus
Spring from their earthen lairs
Making me hopeful.
From Jill in Louisville:
Back steps' snow must be
swept in daytime or icy
treachery awaits.
From Desiree in Virginia:
The cold rain dampens
my mood. My skis sit unused,
with no snow outside.
From my parents in Michigan:
February gives
reasons to leave, cheap fares and
early spring somewhere.
And from Minnesota, we have Tim:
Winters mean big bucks for the
Airline industry.
And (I suspect) this anonymous entry: 

Snow, brilliant blue sky
Frigid air. Sparkling landscape.
Our world is washed clean.

Sunday, February 19, 2023


Sunday Reflection: What has been lost

 Today I have a piece in the Waco paper (you can read that here) and am also giving a sermon at First Covenant Church, and they are basically about the same thing: What we have lost in the pandemic.

As the COVID virus has become more of a seasonal disease like the flu than an existential threat to society, we are entering the post-pandemic era. That seems like it should be a time of accounting for what we lost, what went right and wrong, but right now people would rather just not think about it. 

That's not healthy. I've always been struck by how much of the Bible is about recounting failure and loss; there's even a whole Book of the Bible titled "Lamentations," after all. It seems to be part of a spiritual cycle. As long as the recognition of loss is paired with a determination to go forward, it's probably necessary.

But we're having none of it, even as the pandemic has restructured so much of the world around us. Downtowns are dying, and it is uncertain how work-at-home will change us. The social net that connects us was strained as it is, but COVID accelerated the fraying of its cords. The toll in human fatalities-- well over a million people in the US-- is terrible, but there was a subtler loss in our connections to community institutions like schools, clubs, and churches.

The reason I care is because the first step of healing is knowing the shape and size of the wound. And we are not close, yet, to that first step.

Saturday, February 18, 2023


In case you missed them...

 Here are some of the better Super Bowl ads!

Friday, February 17, 2023


Haiku Friday: The Lingering Winter


As a kid in Detroit, late February was always the worst. Winter had overstayed its welcome, and the weather would shift between snow, slush and cold rain. In Minnesota, that phase is delayed some, but still very real.
I know you all live in different places, so let's haiku about what it is like there. Here, I will go first...
The rain hits the snow
And just makes it harder
Cold encasing cold.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, February 16, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Least of These

 The world and its leaders are buffeted by powerful forces: Giant oil companies and foreign nations, for example, conspire to drive up the price of gas; or a rogue nuclear state like North Korea threatens a nuclear attack. Diseases threaten millions, and natural disasters wipe out entire neighborhoods. 

And yet, somehow, these powerful people seem to often find a way to define "the real problem" as lying in the least among us-- the poor, the powerless, the vulnerable. Impoverished people are redefined as "welfare queens" for political gain, and desperate immigrants are described as rapists and murderers. 

Former Vice-President Mike Pence came to Minneapolis yesterday and gave a speech at the hoity-toity Minneapolis Club. At a time that there is a major war going on in Europe, inflation continues to trouble the economy, climate change threatens us all, and the national debt poses a very real threat to our future prosperity, he focused on.... transgender children.

Could you imagine a more vulnerable and powerless group than that? Bullied, often suicidal, powerless because of their age.

And yet, that is the "evil" he chooses to address.

When a man defines himself publicly as a Christian and then tries to make his mark by ferociously attacking the most powerless among us, we are just seeing another chapter in that slimy playbook.

Someday, it will be called out as wrong.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023


Death at Michigan State


Monday's mass shooting at Michigan State, in which three students were killed and five others injured, is just the latest of a tragic thread running through our society.
As a student of criminal law, I know that mass shootings like this are only a small fraction of the gun violence in our country. Still, this one hits hard. One of the students killed, sophomore Arielle Anderson, went to my high school, Grosse Pointe North. The photo of her above shows her in her prom dress, just two years ago. Another of the victims was a graduate of our rival school, Grosse Pointe South.
It might be true that guns don't kill people (they are inanimate objects) but it is completely true that gun owners kill people.  The Supreme Court has held that there is an individual right to own and possess a gun, and we are paying the price for that broadly-held ideal. 
When you weigh what we lose through easy gun ownership-- in terms of death by suicide and homicide-- it's hard to imagine that the benefits outweigh that loss of life. 
Let me put that another way. Millions of Americans get a gun because they fear something that is very rare: someone will break into their home with malicious intent and they will have to defend themselves. The truth is that home invasions just don't happen very often, even compared to most other types of crime. But you know what is NOT rare? Depression in teen girls. The CDC reports that three out of five teen girls say they have a "persistent sadness," and suicide is way up. According to the New York Times, In 1982, there were 250 emergency room visits by suicidal adolescents. By 2010, the number had increased to 3,000. By 2022, it was 8,000." And that's not for the nation-- that's just one hospital on Long Island.  
So, if you have teens in the house and think getting a gun will make you safer, you just aren't doing the math. 
Politically, guns are hard to limit because gun makers and gun sellers have successfully convinced so many Americans that gun ownership is important for... something. Safety, maybe? But not really, since guns in a home make that home more dangerous when gun accidents and suicides are considered. Or maybe it's to maintain our independence from government? But not really, because your gun isn't really going to take down an armed unit of the government. 
In the end, what the Constitution is perceived to say may not be the best thing for the people of this country in the present day. I know that flies in the face of the reverence of an infallible Constitution, but perhaps that idea needs to be mixed with a dose of reality. The Constitution was never meant to be a static document; the text itself creates a process for change via amendment. But we seem to be stuck in terms of amendments, as the last substantive one (the 26th, which lowered the voting age to 18) was ratified more than a half-century ago, in 1971. (the 27th amendment, regulating pay for Congress, was ratified in 1992 but actually was first submitted to the states in 1791).  
The chances of an amendment to alter or remove the Second Amendment would be very low right now, given that it is hard to imagine 3/4ths of the states signing on. 
And so here we are, with more dead children.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


Balloons Everywhere!


Is anyone else kind of getting obsessed over these UFOs being shot down over North America? So far, only one-- the first one shot down, a Chinese surveillance balloon-- has been identified. The other three are shrouded in mystery, and every official statement the government issues makes it seem even stranger.
 For example, according to the Washington Post, an administration spokesman said that "A range of entities including countries, companies, research and academic organizations operate objects at these altitudes for purposes that are not nefarious at all...”
Really? I mean, I work for an academic institution, and I'm pretty sure St. Thomas does not have an octagonal object that hovers above the earth at 20,000 feet with no apparent means of support.  As for companies, I can think of one that does that-- Goodyear-- and their blimp is pretty easy to identify. 
And then there was this intriguing quote:
 The Air Force’s top officer, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, said Monday that the discovery of the Chinese airship “got all of our attention.” Now that U.S. military officials have adjusted the sensitivity on radar to account for such a craft, he said, they are seeing more than they could see before.
So, the national security radar monitoring our skies basically has a sensitivity control knob and they just turned up last week? Hmmm....

Monday, February 13, 2023


SO Many great haiku!


Wow! On the topic of "Dinner Goes Awry," you all really delivered!
I had to love the dialogue between my parents. First my mom:
Meat goes on the grill.
He goes back to his easel.
Flames rise as steaks burn.

Had guests for dinner.
Pipe broke upstairs and water
Gushed through the ceiling.
Then my dad's response:

"Are the steaks ready?"
"Really ready", I reply.
"Charred to perfection".
Heather Garcia had three:
Hello, ladybug!
I wasn't expecting you.
New hamburger, please!
"Make the veggies snug."
Yet my pan was much too big
Smoke alarm screams out.
Awry? Take your pick
Bloody fingers, raw chicken,
Salt surplus, or burnt.  
Jill Scoggins made the best of it!:
The spaghetti was
a botch but we ordered in
and then made out. Swoon!
As did Craig A (I like old lasagna!):
Late hockey practice,
Nothing but burnt lasagna
In Frosh dining hall.
IPLawGuy did, too:
Meal- a disaster
The wine, however was great
As were laughs and love.
Carina made a mistake:
Queen of substitutes
Red wine for beef stock in sauce
Made mauve meatballs—oops!
And so did Sleepy Walleye:
There's no excusing
Undercooked talapia
Can't be called sushi.
And the Medievalist:
Are those things fish sticks?
No fish was ever born that shape.
I will go hungry.
And, oh, poor anonymous!:
Salmon: dry, tasteless
Asparagus: overdone
Last night's failed dinner.
While Your Tim(e) Has Come, to round it all out, avoids the whole thing: 
Weird Al tells our tale
Trapped in the Drive-Thru describes
Our nightly routine.

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