Tuesday, September 01, 2015



Last week, I was briefly in Canada and took the opportunity to swing by Tim Horton's and pick up a 20-pack of Timbits. They are all gone now, and that makes me sad. I love Timbits.

If you haven't had Timbits, you don't know what you are missing. They are similar to what we usually call "donut holes," and are easily consumed in about two bites (or one if you have a gigantic maw like IPLawGuy, who also eats a whole can of tuna in one bite).

They work out to about 50 calories each, but that varies by flavor. Those include:

chocolate glazed
jelly filled
honey dip
don cherry
sour cream glazed
hockey tape
old-fashioned plain
old fashion glazed
Trudeau sock
tar sand peach
lemon n' loon
apple cider
creamy caramel
pumpkin spice

How much do Canadians (and near-Canadians in Western New York and Michigan) love their Timbits? Well, there is a Buzzfeed poll on what flavour Timbit are you?  And last year people freaked out over a rumor that Timbits were being cut from the menu.

So… ever had a Timbit?


Monday, August 31, 2015


Maybe the best haiku day here ever….

Wow! I was blown away by what people came up with on last week's theme of "art."  All of it was great.

First, my dad submitted this:

I think that art is
all those things that you can not
hire someone to do
He had mentioned that theory to me before, and I am intrigued.  Then there was this, from an anonymous poster:
Art, much like love, defies
rubrics and rules and logic.
Whispers soul to soul.
Art and love! I like that.  And this:
Art is like prayer
You stir the soup, sing the note
and the world is changed.
And this, by Bob, which has been rolling around in my head for the past few days:
As children, we all drew,
Once, we were all great artists
Then something happened.

Someone said something:
A teacher, parent or friend
Stung, we quit drawing

Perhaps great artists
Are those who were never told,
"That's not very good."

Or perhaps, artists
Are those who heard those words and
Kept drawing anyway.
As usual, the Medievalist had an excellent entry:
Night sky at sunset,
Words tumble across the white page,
Contemplating art.
As did Christine:
Nature presents art
in a way my eyes can see
Miraculous joy
Thanks for all the great work!

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Sunday Reflection: The close of summer

One of the things I really love about Minnesota is the sharp edges to the season-- when winter has begun, you know it, and when fall is in full force, you can't miss the signs.  

This is the time that summer ends. I've had a great summer, but I am ready to jump through that door before it slams shut; I want to wear a sweater and buy pumpkins and see the leaves.  It makes me happy in a way that doesn't make sense, really.  

Perhaps we have that instinct within us. As a newer Episcopalian, I am becoming more aware of the liturgical seasons,which shape the actions of the church. I like that rhythm and flow.  I t doesn't match up completely with the liturgical season of my own heart, though, which are bent by a strong pagan-like impulse to celebrate the harvest, the big moon, or the longest day.  

Fall has always been the most powerful and deepest of seasons to me.  Now it is nearly here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


Because I love The Duck

Friday, August 28, 2015


Haiku Friday: Art?

What is art?

My dad has had various theories about that over the years, so I have given it some thought.  My favorite definition was found in a Guindon cartoon, which showed a guy with a bad clown painting.  The painter says "It's art. I used art supplies."

Let's haiku on that this week, or art in general if you prefer.

Here, I will go first:

Just some junk I found
In a clearing by the house
In just the right light….

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 formula for syllables, and have some fun!

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: How to Control Opioids?

On Tuesday of this week, I was honored to moderate a panel of prominent doctors at this conference on opioid abuse.  There were a lot of famous politicians as speakers-- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, Mary Bono, Gov. Dayton, etc.-- but I was most fascinated by what the real-world doctors and patients had to say. Uniformly, they described a broken system that has created disasters for too many patients who become addicts.

There is one insight that has really stuck with me. One of the doctors on my panel, Robert Levy, is a teacher at the University of Minnesota medical school and a family practice specialist. When I asked him what the dynamic behind over-prescription was, part of his answer was this: It is easy to say yes (to a patient who wants opioids) and hard to say no.  If a doctor isn't going to give the patient oxycontin or percocet, that will be a long discussion… but if they say yes, it will be a short one. In an environment where doctors are evaluated based on how many patients they see, that dynamic is very powerful.

What should we be doing to control opioids? Or should we even try?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The Day Jimmy Carter Called Me Out...

Just up at the Huffington Post is this recollection of a moment which seems a long time ago...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Today on Opioids

I have had a pretty busy summer (for an academic, anyways)-- I went to China, finished writing a book, and put together the Clemency Resource Center. And now it is time to start a new school year!

Yesterday, something unusual happened, too. A popular media source, Business Insider, picked up the idea Thea Johnson and I advanced in a recent article, calling it "a remarkably good case." That's kind of rare for an academic paper.

Today, I am moderating a panel at a fascinating conference on opioid abuse sponsored by the US Attorney (Andy Lugar) and Governor Dayton. You can see the full agenda here. My panel is composed of doctors with a special knowledge of the problem-- and good ideas for solutions. I'm very glad for this approach, since I would much rather see treatment, administrative or business solutions to narcotics problems rather than relying on an imprisonment approach. The biggest success of the War on Drugs-- the elimination of small-time meth production through the administrative measure of restricting pseudoephedrine sales-- was achieved without incarcerating anyone. What if we had taken such a problem-solving approach to crack, as opposed to the mass incarceration method?

Monday, August 24, 2015


Boston traffic smack down!

Did you catch this exchange last haiku Friday?

Anonymous CraigA said...
Boston turn-signals
The safeguard of the fainthearted
Man … no guts, no glory
1:05 PM

Anonymous 312 said...

Turn signals, Craig A?
Signaling is for sissies!
So says Chicago.
2:12 PM

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Making things right

Over the years, I have made a lot of suggestions about drug laws, but I think the best one of them is laid out in this new article: Why Not Treat Drug Crimes as Business Crimes?, which was written with Stanford's Thea Johnson.

The idea is simple: combine the federal guideline for financial crimes (2B1.1) with the guideline for drug crimes (2D1.1), and make the primary determinant of the sentence the amount of profit the person took. This would accomplish several things:

-- It would recognize that drug crimes are crimes of commerce, and that the direct and indirect harms of both are similar.

-- It would probably simultaneously increase sentences for the most culpable white-collar offenders and decrease sentences for the least culpable drug defendants (while maintaining long sentences for the most culpable drug defendants).

-- It would correct racial disparities among federal prison populations, as fewer black low-level defendants would be incarcerated.

-- It would also yoke together the interests of two different types of offenders, across racial and economic lines.

It is the last of these that strikes me as strong and true-- and I love the idea of the drug kingpin and the corporate kingpin sharing the same fate….

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I LOVED that debate, and this version is better...

Friday, August 21, 2015


Haiku Friday: Driving!

We Americans love cars and driving… and I am an American.

Let's haiku about cars and driving this week. Here, I will go first:

Undeniable urge:
I'm longing for a road trip
Want to hear my wheels.

Now it is your turn! You can interpret the theme broadly; just have some fun! Use the 5/7/5 syllable recipe, and tell us what you know...

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Why not treat drug crimes as business crimes?

As many of you know, I care deeply about narcotics law. In short, I want to find a way to reduce incarceration while doing what we can to keep illegal drug prices high-- that being the only thing that effective drug interdiction can really achieve. I've written about this in a number of places in the past year or so, including the Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy and the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

Yesterday, I posted a new piece co-authored by Thea Johnson, who is Grey Fellow at Stanford Law School.  It is the lead article in the upcoming issue of Wayne State's law review, and you can download it here.  In short, we argue that drug crimes should be treated like other business crimes, using the same tools, because drug crimes are business crimes.  Our efforts to categorize narcotics as some kind of super-crime has failed, resulting mostly in bulging prisons.

If you read it (and I hope you will), I'm interested in your thoughts...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015



I was fascinated by this chart, listing the top 25 schools by football player arrests over the last five years. Let's break it down by conference:

SEC: 11
Big 12: 5
PAC-12: 3
Big 10: 3
ACC: 2
MAC: 1

Coincidence, or not, that this is pretty perfectly in line with on-field success by conference over that same time period?

Baylor doesn't appear on the list-- but that does not mean it doesn't have issues.  In today's Waco paper, for example, is the story of a Baylor football player currently on trial for rape of a freshman student. Troublingly, he transferred from Boise State after being thrown out there for violation of unspecified team rules-- and also after being named a Freshman All-American on the field.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Does Excitement Matter?

I was talking yesterday to a friend whose political opinions I very much respect. He's a Republican, so we often have different perspectives, but was we talked about the presidential race we seemed to agree on a lot of things.

One of them was the shared perception that the two candidates many people believe will be the ultimate nominees-- Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush-- share the same challenge: People (other than those with a personal interest in their campaigns) aren't very excited about either one. That should be important, since our leaders should inspire us.

Let's take a look at that. Clearly, there are two candidates that are generating real excitement among a significant part of their party's membership:


Others have fervent followers in a smaller segment of the party:


Others are just unloved because they are ignored:


And this guy, people just loath:


Monday, August 17, 2015



So, yesterday (as pictured above) I went to the Twins game with IPLawGuy. We're not crooks, though (well, not anymore, and that one incident was really caused by Fat Kenny and a catalytic converter). That's just the haiku topic we are reviewing today.

Good work, Medievalist!

"I am not a crook."
But no one believed it,
Tricky Dick got caught.

Also, Anonymous seems a little bitter, but I love the word "unrepentant":

Hippity hop hop
Unrepentant cottontails
Steal summer bounty

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Sunday Reflection: Sentencing and Grief and an Oculus of Hope

Today's Washington Post has a great story about my client, Weldon Angelos, complete with a video and photo gallery.  It was written by Sari Horwitz, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and she writes compellingly about his case, his situation, and some of those who have come to his aid.

I urge you to watch the video attached to the story (which is un-linkable).  It lays out the cost of sentences like the one given to Weldon, who got 55 years for a first offense-- selling about $1,000 of marijuana and possessing guns while doing so (though the guns were not used or brandished).   The cost is exacted not only from the offender, but from all those around him, particularly his children. Watch to the end of the video… this project matters.

One of the deep tragedies of this is something that I have a unique understanding of, since I was a prosecutor. In that job, sometimes there are people who just piss you off. They won't do what you want-- like provide information on others or plead guilty-- and won't heed your threats. There is a gut feeling that tells you to grind them into the ground. It's that feeling, combined with laws that let such a base, mercurial instinct lead to action, that concocts these tragedies. It is a few minutes of anger in one person's head, a toxic brew of pride and anger and self-importance. And yes, at times that was me, too.

In the end, faith led me to something else. That is clemency, a simple, gentle machine of mercy and justice. I work to make it function again, in league with many others who are better and smarter and more competent than I am.

Sometimes, I do that work in shadow, and that is ok. The Post article, for example, talks about the Koch Brothers and their counsel, but doesn't mention the work my students and I did on this case over the course of years. And that is ok-- in fact, it reinforces something I talk about the first day of Criminal Law class. In that first session, I use art to illustrate my points, and one of them is Degas' "At the Millner," which looks like this:

It is a fascinating painting. The customer, in the foreground, is happily trying on a hat, smiling. She is the one who will wear it to a society function, get compliments, and enjoy the reaction it gets. Her face is well-defined, and her hands are prominent and well-describes by Degas' elegant strokes. 

In the background is the milliner; this is the person who actually made the hat the customer loves so much. She is in shadow, though. Her eyes do not even make it into the painting, and her features are unformed. Her hands are formless and hidden behind two other hats being proffered. 

My point to the students is this: As attorneys we are servants; we are the milliner, not the customer. We should be content to be in shadow if justice is done, if our client is radiant with freedom, or if our advocacy has made something better. Humility is not only a Christian value, but it is a job skill, if we are to be true to our calling. 

Weldon Angelos is more important than I am, and more important than the Kochs, too. 

When he is free, I will rejoice from afar. There are some things that are even better than a well-made hat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Objects of Desire: the VanMoof

I was walking through Brooklyn and was stopped cold by the most beautiful store I had ever seen. It was a bike store, selling VanMoof commuter bikes from the Netherlands. 

Holland is a place that believes in bikes-- after all, they have an entire town with no cars. But these bikes were just gorgeous: simple, spare, practical, and sleek.  I have never seen one on the road, but I am going to start looking….

Friday, August 14, 2015


Haiku Friday: Crime and criminals

I guess it should be surprising we haven't done this, given my vocation and all… but let's fix that now. Here, I will go first:

Capone, we never
Solved you. Still go after
The followers first.

Now it is your turn. Just use five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and have some fun!

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Political Mayhem Thursday: Crazy Crazy… Canada!

Ok, I feel better about US politics now...

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