Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Because I am a sucker for people dancing in school hallways...

This is from A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas:

Still, it's hard to beat the French at this game:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The Huckabee Conundrum

A few days ago, the Marshall Project's Ken Armstrong wrote a great piece about clemency titled The Politics of Mercy.  Among the revelations there:

-- Former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, a conservative Republican who cared about clemency (and acted on it) is pondering a run for President.  He is a good guy; in 2013, he came to St. Thomas to speak and made a strong impression.

-- In 2008, Mitt Romney prepared an attack ad against Mike Huckabee focused on his use of clemency (about 1,000 instances during his time as governor of Arkansas), but decided not to use it.

-- Huckabee links his use of clemency to his faith.  As I said in the article, this creates a great opportunity to re-cast the political debate over clemency.

The 2016 election is going to be fascinating...

Monday, January 26, 2015


What I liked….

Well, I liked all of the seafood haikus, but this one from Melissa the best:

Fresh oysters paired with
Hell or High Watermelon.
Thanks, Rappahannock!

I have no idea what "Hell or High Watermelon" is, but it is fun to say!

Oh!  And the Duchess:

On Inisheer the white
Horse-drawn redwagon, driven
In soft Gaelic tongue

Took us to a pub
Where the chowder: scallops, mussels,
Cod sang from its bowl.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Rome

I spent the summer of 2013 in Rome; I don't write about it much because it was a difficult summer.  

The city is, like all cities, a crazy mix of mayhem and beauty.  The traffic is overwhelming and dangerous, the city is dirty, and there seems to be a general sense that things don't work very well.  Still, it was a place of found treasure.

At night, I would often wander around on my own, just getting lost in narrow streets then trying to find my way back.  It was, I guess, one way of forcing myself to see the city.

One night, not long after I got there, I was pretty well lost.  I turned and reversed course, wandered and followed crowds.  Then, out of nowhere, was the Pantheon.  It was built at the time of Christ, then rebuilt under Hadrian, and sits at one end of a large plaza.  Consecrated as a church in the 7th century, it has been in continuous use for 2,000 years.  

I stood and looked.  I loved the light of the place, the lines of it.  I didn't go in, at least that night, but didn't have to.  Sometimes, the chance to see beauty is enough to redeem us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Fake Service Dogs on Planes...

Not long ago, I was checking in for a flight, and the couple ahead of me had two dogs with them.  The dogs were wearing service dog-style vests and ID tags, but…

Well, they didn't seem like very well trained dogs.  They tried to run away a few times, they barked a lot, and at one point got in a fight with one another.  The longer I was around them, the more it bugged me

I love being around dogs that are doing what they were bred to do.  I have gone dog-sledding, and it was incredible to see the dogs straining to go, trying to get picked for the team.  I've hunted with bird dogs, and was amazed at their abilities and loved how happy they were doing it.  In my work as  prosecutor, I got to know some remarkable and incredibly disciplined dogs trained to detect drugs and explosives.  I have friends who use well-trained service dogs, and understand how important they can be, and what a unique and valuable service they provide to people with physical handicaps and allergies.

But this was just messy.  As I walked to the plane, I could still hear them barking aimlessly.  I think this can't be good for real service dogs, who are needed and important.

Apparently, the rules are pretty lax about service-type dogs on planes.  According to the "Dog Registry" website, (which sells a "Emotional Support Dog ID Kit" for $155 including vest), an "emotional support dog" is allowed on planes for free just like a service dog, only without all the training and discipline.

And yeah, the dogs were on the plane, with all the accompanying antics.  Sigh.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Haiku Friday: Seafood!

When I read this fascinating article about Lolo's Seafood Shack in Harlem, I knew what this week's topic should be: seafood.  

At least once a week, I try to eat something good from the sea (or maybe a lake or river).  I love grilling fish-- though not this time of year-- and I'm a fan of shrimp, scallops, and... well, lots of stuff.  So haiku about what you love or hate, just do it!

Here is mine:

 Thick slab of salmon
Brushed with wine and butter,
Get in my belly!

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Let's NOT talk about race?

In a comment to my piece on Tuesday advocating talk about race, Anonymous2 disagreed, saying:

See blog, first page of today's Waco Tribune-Herald, re BU BB fan.

The picture speaks a thousand words.

Some subjects are not always and everywhere fit subjects for oral conversation. Can't imagine my black neighbors and I profiting by verbalizing on the subject of race in general terms, and no need to on a personal level. Basketball, chinch bugs, irregular postal delivery, and concerns about health, bereavement, the neighborhood association and Neighborhood Watch have real world relevance and are more in our line.

"Hey Rico, how do you feel about race relations in Waco?" I don't think so.

You can see the Waco Trib story referred to here, and the photo is above.

What do you think of Anonymous2's response?  For what it is worth, the city of Waco is roughly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 hispanic, and Anonymous2's thoughts weren't a surprise to me based on the 10 years I lived there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A good answer….

Yesterday was the first day of my criminal law class, and in talking about murder I used the picture above.  It is Caravaggio's depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes.  

If you don't know the story behind the painting, it's simple and compelling.  Holofernes was the Assyrian general who was about to destroy the Jewish city of Bethulia.  Judith, a widow from that city, was able to get into Holofernes tent and kill him.

My question was "is this murder?"  The students got to a good answer which was "It might be a justifiable killing."  

But someone had an even better answer-- that it depends on whether the Jews or the Assyrians were deciding.  

Which is absolutely true.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Talking about race

Last night, I went to an event hosted by Nekima Levy-Pounds, my St. Thomas colleague who is one of the ten people charged with misdemeanors in relation to the Mall of America protests.  She is a great presenter and facilitator, and led a remarkable discussion.

We talked about race.  The discussion began with a reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "moderate whites" are the biggest obstacle to racial change.  In response to this, several people-- including me-- identified ourselves as white moderates.  I'm not ashamed of that description, and had the chance to talk about the work I have done.  It led (as you might imagine) to a broader and fascinating discussion about a wide array of racial issues among a group that was about evenly split between black and white. 

I suppose what struck me most was how rare this discussion is, at least in a racially mixed environment.  It's brave and good of Nekima to do this-- and next time I will post on the blog that such a discussion is coming up!

Monday, January 19, 2015


Haiku fever!

Wow!  There were some two dozen haikus last week on the topic of coffee… check them all out here.  You might have your own favorite, but I admired Craig A.'s admission that people in Boston actually think the coffee at Dunkin' Donuts is good:

Dunkin rules Beantown
Regulah DD coffee:
With cream and sugar

He gets bonus points for the accent and the double-meaning reference to "Beantown!"

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Sunday Reflection: On the snow

When I was a kid, my family would go skiing at Blue Mountain in Canada, not far from Detroit.  It wasn't a fancy place; the restaurant was called "Eat."  

That was where my dad taught me to ski.  Mostly, I followed him and watched.  He would step off the top of a slope eagerly, and then gain speed.  He was elegant and strong all at once, and transfixing to watch as he cut turns down the hill and I did my best to keep up.  His movements on the snow were like his brushstrokes when he paints-- placed with great certainty as part of a whole that was emerging with each movement.  

On the lift, he would ask me and my brother questions.  He would circle around a little before getting to it, of course; he paints and skis and thinks in dots and curves, not lines.  He would ask about school, maybe, but more often about the future.  What did we want to do?  I don't remember my answer, but it might have been that I wanted to write about how the world could be better, and have people read it and talk to each other (because that is what I dreamed of when I sat in my room at the blue desk he had built for me). 

Today's an interesting day.  One of my all-time favorite writers, Frank Bruni of the New York Times, called this week to talk, and quoted me in his excellent column about Mark Wahlberg in that paper today.  Closer to home, I have a piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today, about the charges laid against the alleged organizers of the Mall of America protest last week (including my beloved colleague Nekima Levy-Pounds).

Probably there are a few people mad at me now, and others who read these things and talked to each other.   What I'm thinking about, though, is watching my dad ski, the beautiful line he would cut with me behind him awkwardly tracking those brushstrokes in the snow.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


New IPLawGuy video...

Ok, from the information I have, an unnamed foreign government sent this video to IPLawGuy as a way of suggesting better behavior on his next trip there.  The panda represents IPLawGuy (and his friends:

Friday, January 16, 2015


Haiku Friday: Coffee

Coffee.  For lots of people, it is built into the fabric of each day.  For others, they… well, they watch other people who are obsessed with coffee.

Let's haiku about coffee today-- our own experiences, general observations, people who drink too much, whatever!  Here, I will go first:

In Waco one day
I took a chance, got a latte
Bam!  A whole new world.

Now it is your turn! Just make if 5/7/5 syllable-wise, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Policy and Higher Education

I found this chart over at Paul Waldman's American Prospect blog.  I had no idea how far we have come in high school completion and higher education in this country since the time my parents were born.  In 1940, less than a quarter of Americans graduated from high school!

Part of this has been driven by the economy.  In 1940, a 16-year-old boy could get a job in a mine or a factory that paid a decent wage and which he might expect to have for the rest of his life (it was a little different for women, of course).  Finishing high school was a luxury.  Those jobs, of course, largely don't exist anymore.

Is it worthwhile to push for higher levels of college completion now?  If so, how do we do it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Ohio State!

As a lifelong Michigan fan, it's hard to say this, but-- I'm really glad Ohio State won the national championship in football yesterday, beating Oregon, 42-20.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1)  Ohio State was a good story of persevering in times of adversity.  They lost in the second week of the season to a pretty mediocre team (Virginia Tech), and their first-string and second-string quarterbacks were lost to injury for the season.  And yet, they beat the Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon with their 3rd-string quarterback.

2)  It was a great end of the season for the Big 10, which started slow.  With Ohio State beating Alabama and Oregon, Michigan State edging Baylor, and Wisconsin beating Auburn, the top tier of the Big 10 looks pretty strong.  Which brings me to...

3)  I'm pretty tired of hearing about SEC dominance, even though it is rooted in truth (SEC teams won the national championship every year from 2006-2012).  The underlying dynamic to that claim was about sectionalism-- that good football was now only played in the south.  That claim to a permanent shift in power has been challenged by the outcomes this year... but that's only one year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Gas n' Milk

I'm still not used to gas being under $2 a gallon, but it looks like that will be the case for at least the next several months.  Politically, this has some great effects, not the least of which is hobbling the Russian economy better than any sanctions we might impose.  Air travel (over time) should become cheaper, and more money should be coming into the broader economy that is usually funneled to energy costs.  And I don't mind paying less.  

Finally, too, a bizarre anomaly has been reversed.  For many years, gas was more expensive, per gallon, than milk.  It was an easy comparison to make, since many gas stations sell milk, priced per gallon.  

This made no sense to me.  Oil is pumped out of the ground by the barrel, refined and shipped.  Pretty easy.  Milk, on the other hand… you gotta raise and milk a cow every day!  It just made no sense that milk would be cheaper than gas.  Part of the reason for this skewed market was government subsidies, of course.

Now, however, the world makes sense again-- milk costs more than gas.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Feeding my burger jones...

So many good haiku last week!  People liked this one from Robert Johnson:

They say, "Where you get
that big, welfare, green-pepper
burger?" And you cry.

-Eddie Murphy

And I have to say that, thanks to Gavin, I can't get the idea of "fat pants" out of my head:

Matt's. Blue Door. The Nook.
Let's try em all, find the best.
Hand me my fat pants.

Finally... what is this burger that Zohra Watkins speaks of?

Bacon smooches angus
Who insinuated cheddar
Who romance tomato

Who Sashayed Pickle
Who was aroma'd by Red
Onion,all BBQ sauced!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Charlie Hebdo and the Problem of Eggshells

Twelve people were killed these week because a (relatively small) group of Muslims were upset that they had printed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed and some Muslim leaders.  At root, they wanted people outside of their faith to respect and follow the tenets of their faith.

Quite simply, that doesn't work.  You simply can't get adherence by others to your beliefs by demanding it.  This is especially true of identity groups, such as religions and ethnic groups.  When Christians insist that non-Christians go around saying "Merry Christmas," it is a much tamer version of the same dysfunction.  If you want me to be like you, tell me your story rather than make demands.

Often when I write on religious subjects I am assailed from two sides.  First, some conservative Christians write to accuse me of "sin" because I expressed my views, or to express their expectation (and sometimes their hope) that I spend an eternity in hell.  Often, they go to lengths to describe what that will be like.  On the other side, atheists deride me as an imbecile for believing in God at all, and for trying to follow ancient moral tenets set out in the Bible.  I just kinda shrug at both.  At this point, if I don't get that reaction, I wonder what went wrong.  Both of those groups want me to believe precisely what they do, and I don't.  I can't say it bothers me much that they get upset, and often it feels like they are canceling one another out.

I say that from a place of great privilege because I (1) am blessed to live in a place with free speech AND freedom of religion, and (2) to their credit, the groups that oppose me are just employing their own right to free speech rather than resorting to violence.  That second point is an important one-- and too little recognized, especially in a week like this one.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


The Interview

Don't tell Kim Jong Un, but I saw it… the Seth Rogan/ James Franco comedy "The Interview," which has caused a fuss after hackers (obviously backed by North Korea) tried to prevent its release.

I suppose in part the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris made me want to see it-- a tiny little response to the increasing efforts to limit speech by violent groups who are easily offended.  

As for the movie, it was pretty good.  As is often true, there was a lot more foul language and violence than the story really needed, but it was funny-- much funnier than some reviews had led me to believe.  It wasn't satire, actually, but just a stupid comedy with a broad but true point beneath it.

It's been a wearying week, hasn't it?  

Friday, January 09, 2015


Haiku Friday: Best Best Best Burgers...

Here in Minneapolis, there is something called the Juicy Lucy.  It's a hamburger grilled with cheese on the inside, and done right it is just awesome.  It's the perfect burger.  

Let's haiku about that today.  Here, I will go first:

Grab it right up, fresh
Bite down… ow!  That cheese is hot!
Gotta wait a bit.

Now it is your turn… just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

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