Thursday, February 11, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Thoughts from the Waco Farmer

I am blessed to have friends who often are more articulate than I am, including people like IPLawGuy, CraigA, and Waco Friend, among others. Fortunately, they often represent viewpoints and positions different than my own.

One of those friends is the Waco Farmer, who graciously offers up the following reflection in the wake of the New Hampshire primary, and invites further discussion:

A Few Notes on the Early Stages of an American Election, Part II.

Pa said, I’m tired
O ’waitin' on Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt.
Damn tired o‘ waitin’ on Roosevelt.
I can’t git a job
And I can’t git no grub.
Backbone and navel’s
Doin' the belly-rub—
A-waitin' on Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt.
And a lot o' other folks
What’s hungry and cold
Done stopped believin'
What they been told
By Roosevelt,
Roosevelt, Roosevelt—

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
~~Abraham Lincoln
Like the spouse who listened to his partner assure him for decades that she would leave one day if he did not change, the GOP and Democratic Party establishment woke up yesterday morning alone, and they cannot understand why or how it happened.

For decades (maybe centuries, for this is an essential element of the American project), the electorate has consistently voiced an unmistakable unhappiness with the “establishment.”  In my lifetime we have sent myriad outsiders and reformers to Washington promising a new tone, hope and change, and a revolution to empower the people.  All to no avail.  The voters of New Hampshire (perhaps as a bellwether) sent a message loud and clear: We Are Done!

A Few Stray Exit Poll data points stick in my mind: over 90-percent of Democratic voters who valued honesty as the most important quality in a President picked Bernie.  And some huge percentage of Republican voters expressed a sense that the Republican Party had betrayed them.  “We Are Done!”  “We have done stopped believing what we’ve been told.”

Where do we go from here?  

I have thought for some time that the key to winning this election would reside in channeling the anger of the Trump supporter and the frustration of the Bernie supporter into a programmatic plan of action in plain but practical political language. But maybe not. Today is a day in which I have a lot more questions than I have answers.

Where do we go from here?  I am all ears.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


The Razor would like to apologize...

David Best wrote yesterday, noting that one of his comments had gone into limbo. I checked, and it turned out he was right. His comment, and lot of others (including some excellent points by Waco Farmer and IPLawGuy) were "awaiting moderation." Here is what happened… last summer, I was deluged with spam comments on the Razor. I had two choices: either require one of those "prove you aren't a robot" tests (which I often fail), or limit the number of posts to which comments could be made. I limited comments to just two days back, which was probably too restrictive.  I have loosened it up now, to seven days.


If you are wondering what the spam is like, here is one particularly intriguing example, which appears to be promoting a Temple which helps stalkers:

Hello everyone am on this blog to testifying about the goodness of EDUDU ZADSON TEMPLE in my life for helping me bring back my lost love in a space of 48 hours. I saw comments of how he helps people amend broken relationship and bring back lost love and decicded to let him help me also when i lost my ex 5 months ago. To cut it all short it is the evidence of his fast results that reuslted to me testifying about his good works. If you are in such situation, cry no more but contact Dr Zadson on and experience an amazing turn around in your situation... on Haiku Friday: Breakfast food!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


It's New Hampshire Day!

I love the way the primaries force politicians to pay attentions to states they would usually avoid: Iowa and New Hampshire, in that it forces them to do retail politics rather than rely on media.

On the other hand, I don't like the way the prominence of those two states warps the political outcomes we see. Both are predominantly white states, which means that we see little discussion or race when the candidates are there-- and few new initiatives in that area. Also, it creates strange benefits for those states. For example, Iowa is a big corn ethanol producer, and candidates usually become great enthusiasts for federal ethanol mandates before the Iowa caucuses. Ted Cruz was an exception. He (correctly, I think) opposed the ethanol mandates and subsidies, and still won the Republican causes in Iowa.

Watching the candidates trudge through snow, I thought they might prefer that the first primaries be held in Florida and Texas...

Monday, February 08, 2016


Those are some shoes!

I suppose I should have figured that women are more interested in shoes than men... and it brought in some great poems! Like this one from Renee:

Leopardskin mules,Dad
And I saw in Edina.
He said,"Buy at J.C Penné."

Then sent cash to "Buy those
Darling shoes." Do you see now
Why I'll never throw them away?

Christine had this:

So buttery soft,
hand crafted, finest leather
purchased in Brazil

Came in a felt bag
Worn on special occasions
Re-soled many times.

And I was very intrigued by Amy's bargain-hunting skills:

Kate Spade spring pumps on
Consignment, twenty-two bucks.
Oh, those kitten-heeled

Gems, purple-flowered,,
Low-heeled; felt like royalty,
Took the edge off work.

Meanwhile, the Medievalist held down the fort for us guys, and I think I have seen these shoes:

Black with a white swoosh,
Comfortable tennis shoes,
To Iceland and back.

But.... why did a Spanish Medievalist go to Iceland?

Sunday, February 07, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Quiet Heroes

Like many others, I was saddened to hear about the resignation of Deborah Leff as the United States Pardon Attorney. She is a remarkable person, and a quiet hero.

One of my problems with American culture-- and one that tears against the Christian faith-- is its celebration of "heroes" who have become rich or famous or both.  That is contrary to what we see in the Bible, where the heroes rarely are celebrated, rich, or famous (at least in their own time).  The people Jesus cites as worthy are the widow who gives her only coin to the poor, the Centurion who shows faith, and the Good Samaritan, among the many others who were unheralded but for his noticing their efforts.  Our contemporary faith is lousy at recognizing those quiet heroes (who often are not Christian, and rarely are rich or famous).  Instead our eyes are drawn to shiny objects created and propelled by a media with its own agenda.

Debby Leff toiled in a difficult place in adverse circumstances, according to NPR. She did so with a generous heart and firm will.  She may never be portrayed as a hero in the press, but that does not change a truth too few will see.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Looking good for the Broncos...

Friday, February 05, 2016


Haiku Friday: Shoes

Yeah, you got 'em. You wear them. And you probably care about them more than you let people know.

My favorite pair of shoes gave up on me after years of dutiful service, and I miss them.  Here is my ode to those shoes:

They came in a box
From Texas, a great surprise
Note: "You need these, Mark"

Joy Tull (the sender) was right about that.

Now, you go-- haiku about some shoes. Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: What now?

This coming Tuesday, New Hampshire will host the first Presidential primary in the country. Last Monday, of course, we saw the Iowa caucuses play out, with some interesting results:

-- Ted Cruz won on the Republican side, while Donald J. Trump (when did he add the "J," and isn't that a little too much like Homer Simpson?) came in second. Surprisingly close at 3rd was Marco Rubio.

-- Far behind, with less than 3% of the vote was Jeb Bush. It was estimated that he spent about $2,800 in Iowa for each vote he received. Aren't these Republican big spenders tired of their money going down the drain, with this on top of the Romney loss in 2012?

-- On the Democratic side, it was a virtual tie between Sanders and Clinton (with Clinton ahead by a miniscule 0.3%).  Many people are seeing it as effectively a win for Sanders.

-- Martin O'Malley, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum have now dropped out of the race.

What will happen in New Hampshire? Here are my predictions:

-- Sanders and Trump will win.
-- Rubio will be second.
-- Bush will be far behind, and then drop out.
-- There will be a muddle between Kasich, Christie, and Carson.

What do you think?

[and yes, that is a real Ted Cruz coloring book, available at Barnes and Noble. Also available: The Donald J. Trump Off-Color Coloring book.]

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


The New Pardon Attorney....

This afternoon, I was on NPR's "All Things Considered" talking about clemency.  What I did not know was that by the time the story came out there would be a new US Pardon Attorney announced. It is Bob Zausmer, a prosecutor from Philadelphia. That's him on the left above; what I just noticed is that my law school roommate, Mike Schwartz, is on the far right in the same picture (which is from the NPR story about clemency and  Zausmer).  It's a small world....


What's up with clemency?

This morning, I should be on NPR talking about clemency-- it is an unusual week for that subject. The Pardon Attorney, Deborah Leff, announced that she was leaving effective at the end of January, but no replacement has been named. I really have no idea what is going on with that-- it is a mystery being closely guarded within the administration.

The last year of the Obama administration is one in which he can do great good, in this and other areas.  The attention of the political reporters will be elsewhere as the election contest rages on, and the scrutiny will be lessened.

There are simple steps he could take to fix the clemency process, as I have described before.  If he doesn't, I expect that there will be a moment in ten years when he regrets that choice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Iowa Recap with Guest Blogger Grar the Giant Panda

Some of you may remember Washington insider Grar the Panda, who so famously ran for president back in 2008.  I asked for his comments on the Iowa caucuses of yesterday.

Grar is Panda of Washington. Washington is bad for people, and Iowa is a good place for election. If Grar were running this year, he would say that lazy bad government is problem with USA.  Here, look at this picture of a US government employee bear at "work":

He is a goof-off! Killing time, leaning on his shovel. And then, if he messes up, it is not his fault, because he is government bureaucrat who is never at fault: "Only you can stop forest fires" he says. Yeah, well, then what is that shovel for, lazybones? One would think it is for stopping forest fires. Oh, wait, no, it is so you can get a good rest instead of doing any work.

Grar has decided to run for president again. Send money to Grar.

Monday, February 01, 2016


The basement

Renee did a lot of good work last week, but the one that struck me deepest was this:

It's basement proved a
Safe Haven to young lovers,still--
Little Brother lurked.

That pretty much paints a picture, doesn't it? I love the image of the brother lurking.

No one made out in the basement of the house I grew up in-- there was too much stuff in there. Still, it was a fascinating place (and still is, in fact).  There is a lot of art, and old wine, and record albums and forgotten projects and sports equipment (misc.).  It's an amazing place to explore, and that has been one of my hobbies for the past four decades.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Sunday Reflection: Income Inequality

I do know that there is an argument to be made for maintaining those institutions that create and sustain income inequality in this country (low estate taxes, income tax policies that allow some of the wealthiest to pay little, etc.).   It creates an incentive to invest, some argue, or encourages people to innovate.

But how do people of faith justify those policies? It seems that in the realm of government, their ideas about economics trump what their faith directs-- though they would probably tell you that God is the God of all.

But… is that right? Or is there a Christian argument for those institutions which create and enhance income inequality? I have an open mind on this...

Saturday, January 30, 2016


The Preamble

I can't figure out if this was foolish or brilliant. What do you think?

Friday, January 29, 2016


Haiku Friday: The House I Grew Up In

Some people grow up in many houses; others in only one. We all have memories, though, of those shelters. We shared them with brothers, sisters, sometimes cousins, parents, grandparents.

Let's haiku about that this week: The house you grew up in.

Here, I will go first:

I loved the milk chute
So long ago, that it was where
The milk was found: Joy!

Now it is your turn! Just make it 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Prophets, Kings, and Black Lives Matter

Yesterday I posted a piece titled Prophets, Kings, and Black Lives Matter over at the Huffington Post. I'm interested in what you all might think of it.  It took me a long time to get it just right.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Best TV shows, in rank order

1) The Sopranos
2) Arrested Development
C)  Seinfeld
4)  Twin Peaks
5)  Freaks and Geeks

Yeah, this is (by necessity) limited to the shows I have actually seen.

You don't disagree, do you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Cross-Blogging With the Dadster...

If you haven't been keeping up with my Dad's blog, you have been missing out on some great photos and descriptions of the jazz scene back in Detroit. I love the photo above, for example, and his plan for the coming year:

What our children think is important… and why this matters.

I grew up before television was our primary information center. Before dinner our family huddled around the radio for the news and after dinner we were entertained by a record going round and round on the Victrola. All kinds of music surrounded us with all its imagery. Those were magical moments. Sometimes we accompanied our parents to a concert or an opera but never to a jazz joint. Jazz and popular music were only on the radio and records. It did get into our heads and we learned to move and sway when nobody was watching. I did catch my dad once practicing his moves. It has  remained part of the rhythm of my life. Thankfully it has also leaked into my children’s lives.

Life isn’t as simple for kids today.

There is plenty of music all around us but often it is in the background while our brain is focused on a task. Getting the time to get lost in some music just isn’t always available. Luckily in Detroit there are earnest efforts to bring our master artists into the community to share their gifts. Providing  an intimate experience with these teachers will assure that many young lives will be richer. I have witnessed the skill of our jazz educators and seen  kids abandon their cell phones while being introduced to something new. This year I am planning to spend time documenting the programs and the individuals whose lives will be enriched. I have always been impressed with the ability jazz musicians have to listen to the children. They seem to know how much that matters. Maybe it is that listening to others is the key to jazz.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Swimming in bad music

My favorite haiku from last week was Christine's, since she described a perfectly awful situation:

The song repeated
and repeated in my head
while I swam laps

It is different
each time. The last song I heard
on the radio.

Taylor Swift, Beiber...
I hope it has a good beat
so I will swim fast.

Trapped in the pool with Justin Beiber! Can you even imagine? {shudder}... but if it gets you through the workout...

Meanwhile, I had to look up what Lee Carver was talking about:

Chainsmokers invade
All I can think of now is
Taking a #SELFIE

As is often the case, it was the Medievalist whose thoughts rang closest to my own:

You can't always get
Songs by Barry Manilow
Out of your mind. *sigh*


Sunday, January 24, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The Wonder of Transformation

All day yesterday, I kept an eye on the news and messages from friends in the East, where the deluge of snow has been record-setting. For example, here is IPLawGuy, who lives in Washington:

The photos that make me long to be there, though, are the ones showing a normally-bustling place-- a street in New York, or a square in Washington-- still and empty and quiet and white.  I want to put on my long skinny nordic skis and slide through there, gliding where cabs are usually jockying for position.

Don't we all want that? To see a world transformed in some way, made less harsh, quieter, more gentle? 

Saturday, January 23, 2016


A pretty good ad….

A week ago, I was in Boston and got to see-- for the first time this cycle-- a lot of election ads. Some were unintentionally funny, others just weird, but this Bernie Sanders ad is just good art.  

Not that it says anything at all, or even tries to, about the candidate, at least in any express way.

I suspect that Simon and Garfunkel gave him the rights to use the song, though!

In the interests of balance, here is Donald Trump's first major ad:

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