Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Happy Halloween!


For some people, Halloween is their favorite holiday. I get it-- the opportunity to dress up as something else and go to a party is pretty fun. 
These days, I'm a "Gentle Halloween" kind of guy. I really don't go in for anything too scary, since I get enough of that at work. It really takes any kind of fun out of the macabre when your days are filled with unfortunate deaths and deep tragedies.
I carved my pumpkin, and it ended up looking more indifferent than sinister. I'm ok with that. Here in Minnesota, it is supposed to snow tomorrow night. As you might expect, kids adjust to that and I've noticed a plethora of costumes that incorporate the need for a warm and fuzzy outer layer. It's a great place to be a bear for Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2023


Guys' poetry about bears

 For perhaps the first time in Razor history, all the poems submitted this week came from men! I'm not sure why that is... but the subject was bears.

I should have known this was coming from CraigA (but I love it anyways):

New hockey season.
Osler's Wings best be cautioned:
Fear the Beantown bears!
And this arrived anonymously from IPLawGuy:
Deer in the suburbs
Plus possum, raccoon and fox
And now, the bears too.

With this follow-up:

That haiku above
Was written by me, your pal
IPlaw guy by phone.

Sunday, October 29, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Quiet Times


Every year, I take my old and unrestored 1996 Miata to the State Fairgrounds, where it spends the winter. Yesterday, a guy named Mac showed me where to park it in the upper grandstand, among a lot of other old and unrestored cars (they must have another place for the cars that have been fixed up). 
After I walked down the elegant ramp by the Star-Tribune building ("Meet local celebrities/journalists/musicians!") I turned left past the giant slide and down by Ye Olde Mill (a tunnel of love operating for the last 108 years)-- all these places I am used to seeing jammed with people during the fair, now seemingly abandoned, with dry leaves piling up nearby.
It was awesome.
It was a type of quiet I don't get very often these days; the best kind of being alone. In those moments, I say a little prayer-- how can you not?

Saturday, October 28, 2023


Allison Dickson


This weekend's Waco paper includes a piece I wrote about one of my most memorable students, Allison Dickson. You can read it here.

Friday, October 27, 2023


Haiku Friday: Bears!


We've all encountered a bear, even if it is a teddy bear. This is the time of year when our bear friends are fattening up and getting ready for winter.  Let's haiku about them this year!
As a little kid
I chose to name my bear "Bear"
He still guards my clothes.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, October 26, 2023


PMT: My take on crime and victims


Yesterday, I had a piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, about the politics of my new job. You can read it here-- and I hope you will!

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Interesting times for Minnesota sports....


It was kind of a wild weekend for football in Minnesota.
First, on Saturday, the Minnesota Burrowing Gophers beat Iowa in Iowa City for the first time since 1999, in a game that ended with a very weird play. Trailing by two, a kid named Cooper (pictured above) returned a punt for Iowa for over fifty yards and crucial touchdown with only a minute and change left in the game.
But then a flag came out.
The call was that Cooper had made an "invalid fair catch signal" by waving his left hand in a circular motion at waist level-- which was straight-up goofy looking, but I'm not sure anyone thought he was signaling a fair catch, which is usually done by holding your left hand up high. 
Then on Monday night the Vikings, who were 1-4 coming into the game, beat the San Francisco 49ers-- a team with only one loss and a lot of talent, viewed as one of the very best in the league. That game featured a game-winning score in which Vikings receiver Camryn Bynum just wrestled the ball away from a 49er who had caught it and then ran into the end zone. 

We don't get that kind of weekend often, so we are going to savor it!

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


What we learned in the pandemic


Three and a half years ago, everything changed. Schools and businesses shut down, the streets were deserted, and we all hid away from a dangerous pandemic. Things came back slowly, and amid a terrible period of national division over things as basic as the value of science.
What did we learn? Here are a few of my thoughts:
-- Not everyone has to go into work every day.
-- The loss of community has serious public health costs.
-- Many in our country are not willing to believe what doctors say so long as a politician says something else.
-- School is about more than book learning; it offers a stability that matters.
-- Crime is related to public health; the disruptions of the pandemic created a rise in crime we are only now recovering from.

Monday, October 23, 2023


Small Town verse

 Thanks to all who haiku-ed about small towns! And I feel I kind of need to respond to this one from IPLawGuy:

Small Town Coffee Shop
The sign outside said ice cream
But you would not stop.

See, when we go skiing every Spring, after a long day on the slopes, IPLawGuy likes some ice cream. A lot. But sometimes it isn't available. And other times, we have already stopped twice for ice cream, and then he wants more. "Sorry," I explain gently, "but we already stopped for ice cream twice today."  But, just writing that out, now I want some ice cream.

Desiree has the scars from small town life:
“We love trees!” says the
Town Council, as they make deals
to cut them all down.

While Jill Scoggins is more positive:
Kingsville was a place
like Cheers: everyone knew
your name. You felt safe.

As is Christine:

Friendly, slower pace,
A sense of community,
My local small town.
BUT... Moto Coco is a little down on Megan Willome's home town:
Beautiful Scenery
Critical thinking verboten
Fredericksburg Texas

And the Medievalist might not be moving back to Minnesota:

Everyone knew your name,
No getting away from here,
Going to Madrid.

Sunday, October 22, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Faith among the condemned


Michelle Pitcher at the Texas Observer has a great piece out, "No Path to Redemption for Devout Death Row Inmates," and I hope you will read it. It features the story of Will Speer, who is represented by my friend and mentor Donna Coltharp. And Michelle gave me the chance to say this:

Saturday, October 21, 2023


Posted without comment on the day of this important game


Note: I am a graduate of neither school, and take no position on inter-family matters.

Friday, October 20, 2023


Haiku Friday: Small Towns

 I grew up in a village. Sure, it was the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, but still... it was kind of a small town. 

And I love lots of the small towns I go through with some regularity, like Grand Marais, Minnesota. Let's haiku about those smaller communities this week. Here, I will go first:

Goldfield, Nevada
Once the biggest in the state
Now just dust and hope.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2023


PMT: Israel and Gaza

 I worry about what happens next in the Middle East.

Hamas began this slide towards global-scale catastrophe. I don't know what they thought the long game would be on a brief incursion into Israel focused on taking hostages, killing civilians and wreaking havoc. What did they think would come next?

And now the aftermath is unsettling. Israel is likely to send ground troops into Gaza, which will be a difficult and bloody path. On Israel's border with Lebanon and Syria-- countries that have had their own epic dysfunctions in recent decades-- Hezbollah and other groups have been seeking conflicts. 

The current instability opens up terrible possibilities, including direct involvement in the conflict by Iran, or a provocation that Israel counters with nuclear weapons. 

It's been that kind of year...

Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Here's something new: The "pharmacy desert"


For most of the 20th Century, the model for pharmacies was pretty simple: Someone with a pharmacy degree would open up or take over a shop, and run it. People knew their pharmacist in the same way they know their dentist, and even small towns usually had a pharmacist. 
That faded in most places about 40 years ago. As CNN reports, from 1980 to 2022, the number of independent pharmacies were but almost in half as huge chains swallowed their markets and merged with one another to create a few huge behemoths. 
Those big chains probably over-expanded. I can't be the only one who noticed how often a CVS and Walgreens seem to be adjacent to one another, and how the service you got there differed from what you got from Mr. Treder over on Mack Ave. back in the day.
But now the big chains are failing. Rite-Aid is closing hundreds of stores, and the other big chains are following suit. That will leave wide swaths of the country without a pharmacy now that the independents are gone.
It's almost like maybe sort of there was a reason for antitrust enforcement once upon a time...

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Bad Pizza at WaWa!


If you are from the upper Midwest, you probably haven't heard of WaWa-- it's a convenience store chain with most of its locations in and around Philadelphia and Washington. It's kind of like Casey's, but with worse pizza-- way worse, apparently.
A review in yesterday's Washington Post reported all of the following:
-- The crust is "a frozen round that bakes into a dry cardboard-y base bereft of the joys of well-developed dough."
-- On the garlic-seasoned version: "It's like someone dumped the entire contents of a garlic container into the dough."
-- "At best, WaWa pizza is a cheese-delivery system."
-- It's a "generic doormat with cheese."
-- "This is convenience store pizza without the convenience."
-- The staff has "the ability to make a crummy pizza even crummier."

Monday, October 16, 2023


On October

 Great work, poets!

I loved this from IPLawGuy:
Uncertainty, Changes
Hard to know what will happen
Yet we keep moving

And it is great to hear from "Summer Girl" Mary S:
Intensely blue skies
framed by fiery colors
I celebrate life.

Christine told some truth:
Mums, colors bursting
Pumpkin patches and corn mazes
NC perfect fall.

And so did Jill:

Red and orange and gold
Shine from the roadway woods as
I speed on along

Sunday, October 15, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Faith and Clemency in the NY Times


Up now at the New York Times is a fantastic-- and very long-- piece by Dan Barry about the clemency process in Minnesota. He did a great job, and it thoroughly describes the heart and faith aspects of clemency. Dan reached out to me in 2019 or so, interested in doing some kind of piece about pardoning. I told him "you gotta come see how it works in Minnesota!" And he finally did, in the best way.
In a way, too, it is a thorough response to yesterday's story in the Post about clemency for a very very rich man who was not repentant; it's quite a contrast.
I hope you will read the whole thing. Here are some of the parts going to, well, what's fitting for a Sunday Reflection:

The supplicants clustered outside the enormous closed doors. They paced the hallway, fidgeted on benches, knitted their hands and waited, waited, for their 10-minute chance at mercy.

A tall man in a sharp blazer, caught a quarter-century ago with 127 doses of LSD. A pony-tailed Navy veteran who critically injured someone while driving drunk in 2008. A burly man twice convicted of assaulting his wife, now sitting beside him. A former addict once found unconscious in a car, syringe jutting from his arm. Others dogged by the past.

They had come to the Minnesota capital of St. Paul on this steamy summer day to be forgiven. Restored. Redeemed...

Ten minutes: the time allotted the supplicants to prove that they were worthy; that, like St. Paul, they had traveled their own rutted road to Damascus...


No one can expect mercy. No one has the right to be forgiven. Pardons live beyond the parameters of the criminal code’s black-and-white text. They are, by nature, extraordinary.

Rooted in part in the ancient doctrine that monarchs derive power directly from God, pardons are a discretionary tool often given to the executive branch — the president and the governor — to override court-ordered sanctions: to shorten a prison sentence, restore civil rights or eliminate the obligation to identify oneself as a felon...

“Mercy is a requirement for justice, given how punishment actually operates in the world,” said Rachel Barkow, a New York University law professor who specializes in clemency law. “For us to assume there’s a concept of perfect justice, it means we would know how a person will evolve and change over time.”

But with the 2020 murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white Minneapolis police officer fresh in memory, advocates for criminal justice reform seized the moment when the like-minded Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party swept the governor’s office, the House of Representatives and the Senate in last November’s elections. By springtime, Mr. Walz had signed laws transforming how the state treated people with criminal records, including shortened probation for most felonies, an easier process for expunging the records of certain crimes and, beginning next year, changing the pardon process to make clemency more accessible.

This way, more people can “live where they want to, work where they want to, go hunting with their kids and grandkids,” said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis who helped draft the legislation. “But there’s also the reconciliation between society and that individual. There’s the mercy, the forgiveness and the wholeness that comes from that.”




Now, at the church service, a reflection of those days appeared on a large screen that moments earlier had featured the lyrics of hymns: a triptych of Mr. Lorge’s dead-eyed mug shots.

“That guy doesn’t exist,” he said. “But I’ll never forget that guy.”

A prayer leader summoned all the “men of God” in the room to come forward. Soon a dozen of them — one with a white beard, another wearing a backward baseball cap — were placing hands on the back and shoulders of Mr. Lorge, who closed his eyes.

“What time is your — is it Wednesday?” the leader asked.

“Wednesday,” Mr. Lorge answered.

With bowed head, the leader prayed that though the man before them was redeemed in the eyes of God, with the Lord’s help he would also be pardoned by “the earthly governors and authorities.”


At this moment the large, bald man from Minnesota, wearing a blue blazer, lavender shirt and patterned tie bought at discount, joined a pursuit that reached back through American history to the beginnings of humankind.

Before George Washington issued the first presidential pardons in 1795, to men implicated in the Whiskey Rebellion. Before King Ine of Wessex exercised his “prerogative of mercy” during his medieval reign. Before Clementia, goddess of mercy, appeared on Roman coins. Back to the earliest clans recognizing that harmonious community required forgiveness...

Sitting at a long mahogany table, the governor would recount certain moments from the last two days, moments of joy and of pain. He and his two board colleagues had granted 17 pardon requests, denied three others and left the three other imprisoned supplicants with some measure of relief. They had granted mercy and withheld mercy.

He would recall attending a Joan Osborne concert years ago at a women’s prison with his wife, Gwen, a prison education advocate, and how moved he had been by hearing the incarcerated crowd join in singing the musician’s anthem, “One of Us.” He would even recite part of the chorus:

What if God was one of us

Just a slob like one of us






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