Thursday, August 31, 2023


The Problem of the Elderly Senators


Mitch McConnell is 81 years old-- an age when many people are pretty spry and strong of mind and heart. Some others suffer cognition issues, though. And it's a mistake to choose those people as our leaders. 
The over-age Senator is not a new thing-- Strom Thurmond was in the Senate until age 100. And though his advanced age prevented him largely from doing the awful things he did earlier in life, it did not make much sense to have him as an elected leader.
It's not just Republicans, of course. The Senator aging most poorly in office is probably Dianne Feinstein of California: 

 This whole discussion, of course, brings up the inevitable question of the advanced ages of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who would be well into their 80's during their next term if elected. However, neither of them seem to be suffering the infirmities observable in Feinstein and McConnell.
At the root of it all is the power of incumbency, which seems to outweigh nearly everything else. It seems that we prefer the familiar over the effective, a dangerous tendency.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Hurricane Idalia


The first major Atlantic hurricane of the season, Idalia, hit Florida this morning. The very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are going to make these storms worse this season, and Idalia may be short of the most dangerous.
It sounds strange, but I've always wanted to experience the force of a hurricane. When I see the weather guys standing in the driving rain trying to stand still while talking, it looks like a pretty good adventure! Not that I will do it, but... have you ever had that thought?

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


In the yard


Something is new in front of the house: pumpkins. And this time it is on purpose!
You might recall that a few years ago, some kids smashed pumpkins on the wall in front of the house, and the next year vines grew out
This year, it's intentional and getting a little weird. Despite having vines everywhere-- about 20 feet of vines-- there are just two pumpkins. But they are huge. One is bigger than a basketball already, and the other is about twice that size. And it it still August!
I'll provide updates and a photo once they have progressed some more....

Monday, August 28, 2023


Summer's close (at least in MN)

 Can I just say? I loved Craig A's haiku:

The browns of August
are anxious for the colors
and the cool of Fall.
Jill Scoggins was on her game, too:

The wicked hot and
muggy days hang on, not yet
able to let go.
And Christine is laying it out (from a southern perspective):

Summers fading light
Stored heat emanates, blisters
Sirius, dog days.

Sunday, August 27, 2023


Sunday Reflection: What Jesus really said


Christianity is a little strange these days.
Supposedly, it is a faith centered on what Jesus taught. Yet so many seem to define their faith through things that Jesus never addressed in his teachings. Some progressive Christians root their faith, for example, on environmental issues, while some conservatives largely define their Christianity on abortion and attacks on LGBT people-- none of which involve issues Christ talked about.
Meanwhile, what Jesus actually taught about is pretty much ignored. Here is one, which some will find troubling:
"Give to everyone who asks of you." Luke 6:30.
That's pretty straightforward, isn't it? There are no limits or conditions or exceptions. If someone asks, give.
Yet almost none of us do that (including me, sometimes). We talk ourselves out of it when a person on the street asks us for money-- perhaps we convince ourselves that the person will use it for drugs. But that is directly contradictory to what Jesus taught.  
To put it another way, "common sense" tells us one thing and Jesus another. Who do we listen to? And if you ignore this and instead live out your faith based on things you extrapolate from the Old Testament or the Epistles... what is your faith?

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Republican or Not

 After the debate, it seems like a good idea to revisit this:

Friday, August 25, 2023


Haiku Friday: Summer's End


The beauty of this world can be overwhelming, especially on the cusp of change-- the first snowfall, a red leaf on the sidewalk, life pushing up from the ground in hues of green. 
The end of summer is its own elegy. Let's haiku about that this week. Here, I will go first:
Light of evening
The warm air is bittersweet
Sweaters still sleeping.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, August 24, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: The First Debate

I did get watch some of the Republican debate last night, and was struck by how much they actually agreed on almost every issue-- something masked by a LOT of yelling and overtalking. I actually thought Nikki Haley was going to take a swing at Vivek Ramaswamy.  There were a few ridiculous ideas (a written test for citizenship-- something that would take a Constitutional amendment), but for the most part they agreed on policy issues.
Things the agree on:
-- Get rid of the Department of Education!
-- Border stuff!
-- Stop indoctrinating kids!
-- Biden bad!
-- Parents should determine school stuff!
-- Pence did the right thing on Jan. 6, 2021.
That last point was a great thing for them to agree on. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Wiliiam and Mary Football: Gunning for a Championship!


I was idly flipping through the ESPN website yesterday when I happened upon the preseason rankings for Division I-AA. I was shocked by two things. First, my current school, St. Thomas, which jumped from Division III all the way to the almost-big-time just last year, actually was among the group receiving votes (30). The other surprise was that my own alma mater, William and Mary, with 510 votes, was ranked number 4 in the nation!
As I do whenever I find surprising news, I called up fellow W & M alum IPLawGuy. It was a little hard to hear him because he was bombing his unrestored 1968 Pontiac GTO down highway 694 outside Odricks Corner (he refused to say why he was going to Odricks Corner) while listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Not Fragile" album at full volume. 
I was able to ascertain that IPLG wasn't surprised by the team's high expectations, given that they won their conference and made it to the quarterfinals of the national playoffs last year. He also had these intriguing facts about the team (from what I could tell):
-- Their best player is named "John Pius." Really.
-- 17 starters return from last year.
-- The new mascot is "Glorbin the Gummy Bear"
-- Their first game is against the "Campbell Camels."
Hmmmm... maybe I should go to homecoming this year!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023


China in the Pacific


I've written before about the decades-long project through which China has embedded itself economically into developing countries around the world through financing and building projects even as communities of Chinese nationals grow in those nations. It's a project that has sometimes benefited the host nations, but often those gains were illusory or short-lived. Even where successful, they have made developing nations dependent on China.
An intriguing article in the Washington Post yesterday described a similar Chinese project that involves my own area of study. In Fiji (among other nations) China has developed a training program for law enforcement that is enmeshed in an exchange of officers-- and the Chinese officers in the host nation then act on their own, particularly in pursuing Chinese dissidents.
Our nation, sadly, is trending towards isolationism, which makes it hard to develop and fund programs that reach out to these developing nations without the strong-arm tactics of China. We may quickly find ourselves behind the ball.

Sunday, August 20, 2023



 Wow! Lots of great responses this week.

We had this from my Mom:
At eighty-six it's
hard to board a boat. I will
accept any help.
And TallTenor! It's been too long:
See if I can bounce
the innertube full of kids
so they make a splash!
No-Caps IPLawGuy chimed in: 
kayak or canoe
or rowboat sounds wonderful
bigger? Money pit!
And one from Desiree, that made me remember good moments in a canoe:
Cutting through the glass,
we sit on the water, while
paddling at sunset.

Jill Scoggins wrote a gem:
Our pirogue’s outboard
putt-putts us down the moss-hung
muddy Calcasieu.
And this from Christine (but... you canoed to Frankenmuth?):
As a teenager
We canoed once each summer
Then to Frankenmouth.


Sunday Reflection: John Belew


On August 9, a remarkable man passed away in Waco. I didn't really get to know John Belew until he was 100 years old, not long after COVID hit. In those few years, I was one of thousands who benefited from his wisdom, insight, and fundamental decency. 
You can read his full obituary here, and you should.  He was born in Waco in 1920, only two years after the end of the First World War. He was of that generation that survived the Great Depression, fought in World War Two, and then worked to make this country a better place. 
He got a bachelor's degree from Baylor, a Ph.D. in chemistry from Wisconsin and returned to Baylor to teach in 1956. He later served as Provost from 1979-1991, then turned to international education.
I missed all of that.
Instead, I got to know him from a COVID-prompted online Bible study with some of my friends from Waco and my parents. John and his son Jay were there every week, and their insights changed everything. My father, in particular, took more from the two of them (and embraced it) than he had from any faith leaders in his preceding 85 years. The group was full of scholars and experts, but everyone hushed when John spoke. I will very much miss those moments. I know that my dad probably thought "that's what I want to be like at 100."
A year and a half ago, I gave a talk at Baylor. Something happened in that auditorium that almost never happens to me: I stopped talking. I was struck mute by what I saw: 100-year-old John Belew coming into the room, having apparently driven himself over. 
When someone dies at 102, people inevitably say "well, he had a long and full life." That's true, but it is also true that the world will be worse off without John Belew in it, and that he will be missed in a real and active way by those whose lives he touched. I was blessed to be one of them.

Saturday, August 19, 2023


I am a fan of Person Man


Friday, August 18, 2023


Haiku Friday: Boating


Summer is coming to a close, and we haven't talked about boats yet! I'm usually a passenger or pilot of the smallest watercraft: a small sailboat, a canoe, a kayak, or a little fishing boat. They give me everything I need on a venture out onto the lakes we have. But others do it very differently! Let's haiku about all of that this week. Here, I will go first:
My sister heads out
Her two boys sit amidship
Waving commences.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, August 17, 2023


PMT: Trump's outrage


I am on Truth Social, mostly to check out Donald Trump's reaction to various news developments. He goes bonkers whenever he is indicted (geez... I realize that sentence makes it seem like "getting indicted" is a normal part of life, but there you go), and posts things like this on Truth:
I just hope Republicans, and the people of our now failing Nation, see what is happening to our Democracy and Freedom. A sitting President has INDICTED, in many different forms and locals, his political opponent, who is substantially leading him in the Polls. NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED BEFORE. OUR COUNTRY CAN NEVER LET THIS STAND!
When he is really revved up, he goes ALL CAPS, which makes any argument more compelling, of course. For example, we have this: 
I'm not sure it's great advocacy, and insofar as he goes after judges, prosecutors, potential witnesses and the like, it's contrary to his own self-interest, as any good defense lawyer would tell him... and I'm sure has told him.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


Weird Barbie

People who have seen Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" movie are universally taken with Kate McKinnon's portrayal of "Weird Barbie"-- the one who was, um, altered by her owner with a haircut, facepaint and contorted limbs. Apparently, Mattel is even marketing a version of her as a toy. 
The juxtaposition between the obviously damaged and the perfect (Margot Robbie's "Stereotypical Barbie") has to be intentional. Everyone, including Stereotypical Barbie, understands that Weird Barbie is more interesting, insightful, and wise than the rest of them (even President Barbie). 
There are a lot of movies where a traumatized character emerges over time to be those things-- but in "Barbie," that character starts out as interesting, insightful, and wise. She had those things on her own, and did not have to negotiate them through the others.
I kind of like that.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


Indictment 4 is in the books


A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has indicted Donald Trump on charges related to his attempts to manipulate the election results there. It's the 4th criminal indictment pending against him, including a state indictment in New York, a federal indictment in Florida, and another federal case in DC.
One surprise to me about this was the breadth of the charges: 98 pages of text, 41 charges and 19 total defendants, including not just those we suspected we would be included but Trump administration insiders like Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Rosen.
It may not make him less popular to his base, as they tend to see all of this as evidence that he presents a threat to the establishment. I'm still not sure how a guy who lives in a Palm Beach mansion, is enamored with celebrities, used his presidency to lower taxes for the rich and went to an Ivy League college is seen by anyone as anything but the epitome of the establishment, but people believe otherwise.
The real toll will be on his time, energy and money. Four criminal cases at once??? That's going to suck up everything he has, and it is unlikely he will be able to delay all of them until after the election. 
We are looking at a 2024 where Trump will probably both be the Republican nominee for president and on trial for felonies. Once again, he presents America with something new.

Monday, August 14, 2023


On napping

 Such good poems! We had this gem from Jill Scoggins:
I see my dog who
seeks the floor’s patch of sun for
a languid liedown.

I see my husband
whose years lead his head to nod
after our supper.

I see myself give
into droopy eyelids on
weekend days, post-lunch.

We three give into
our body clocks whose rhythms
insist: rest … rest … rest.
And two from Christine. This one:
Lazy afternoon
Lounging chair, book at ready
My eyelids closing.
And this one:

Napping; siesta
An underrated concept
Helps one refocus.
And a very fine anonymous entry: 
Shh....He is asleep!
So peaceful. Well-deserved rest.
Blissful summer nap.

Uh oh! Wake up NOW!
To the boat! Rescue siblings!
Guess I'll take that nap!

Sunday, August 13, 2023


Sunday Reflection: A Year Away


I've alluded before to a new adventure here-- and no, despite the picture above, I will not be driving the Wienermobile (though I think I would be pretty good at that).
Instead, starting tomorrow, I am taking a one-year leave of absence from my teaching gig to serve as the Deputy Hennepin County Attorney and head of the criminal division. That means I'll be supervising the prosecutors in Minneapolis and its suburbs. In some ways it is a big change from what I have been doing, and in some ways it is not-- after all, I was a prosecutor before, and I've been teaching people how to do this for the past 23 years.
Vocation is a tricky thing, and we all need new challenges now and then. This will make me a better teacher, and I'm hoping that I will be good at the job, as well. A significant number of the people I will be supervising were my students at one point!
I'm fortunate to be working with an elected official I really believe in, and will be serving a community I have come to love. The adventure begins!

Saturday, August 12, 2023


It's almost football season!


Friday, August 11, 2023


Haiku Friday: Napping


One of the great pleasures of summer is the chance to take a nap in the sunshine-- by the pool, or the ocean, even on the couch in your own front room. Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
Rarest luxury
An afternoon and sunshine
My breathing slows down.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, August 10, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: Debates coming!

 In just a few weeks, on August 23, we will have the first Republican primary debate. At least nine candidates have qualified: Mike Pence, Ron Desantis, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Doug Burgum.

Trump isn't expected to participate (why would he?), but the rest will make for a good show. We can expect that Christie, at least, will take on Trump but the others may well just ignore the guy who is leading the race by a mile. Which is... kinda strange.

There are a few theories on why that might be:

1) It could be that they are all really running to be the vice-presidential candidate next to Trump. That doesn't work for Pence and Desantis, though; there is no chance Trump would pick them.

2) It might be, too, that they are all thinking something-- a seventeenth indictment, incapacitation, death-- might knock Trump out of the race at some point.

3) Probably they all know they can't alienate Trump's base and have a shot. Interestingly, the one guy who will attack Trump, Chris Christie, seems to actually know that he doesn't have a shot either way, and is just there to make a point.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023


The end of summer


When we were kids, my brother hated the TV ads this time of year-- all about "Back to School!" He wasn't thrilled at the prospect after a summer of swimming, running around outside, and traveling in the family van. I disagreed-- I was ready for the change.
But it is here, the end of summer (at least where I live). School will start soon, a whole new beginning for millions of students and teachers. I love that idea-- a new start for everyone. 
On the way back home from Osler Island, I noticed yellowing leaves on trees up in the far north. It's kind of a shock, but reassuring, too.
And what cycles don't we see, between life and death and death and life?

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