Thursday, July 30, 2015

 

Best Razor Videos: #6

Ronald Reagan speaking truth.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

Best Videos to Appear on the Razor: #7

Cooties!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

In case you missed it...

Here was John Oliver's take last weekend on… well, all the stuff I care about. It was fascinating to work with them on this, and I am glad that they included my client Weldon Angelos (and used the George H.W. Bush with crack clip I love so much):


Monday, July 27, 2015

 

In tomorrow's Star-Tribune...

You can read my take on clemency written with Doug Berman.

 

Well done, Mrs. Kontos!

I loved a lot of the haiku last week (and identified most with Jill's), but this one told such a great story:

The eye of the lens
Captures the ball in flight
A moment in sport.


Well done, Mrs. Kontos! Just one of our quality haiku-ers in or from North Carolina...



Sunday, July 26, 2015

 

Sunday Reflection: Dream Job

"Dream job" was the topic for haiku Friday, and the idea has been in my mind the past few days. The truth is that I have my dream job-- a vocation so fulfilling that I couldn't have imagined it when I was a student at law school.

In short, I get to teach smart students, write about things I care about, and try to change the world in those ways compelled by my faith. I am constantly in contact with brilliant people, some of whom agree with me, and others who don't. Every day, I am in contact with one collaborator or another, and that is one of the great joys of my life.

When I was interviewing at law firms back when I was in law school, I pondered long and hard the question of how to find out the truth about work conditions at a particular big law firm. After all, an associate or partner was not going to tell someone being recruited the whole truth, at least not in any clear or obvious way. Their job was to accentuate the positive. I developed a technique that seemed to really work: When I was interviewing, I asked the lawyer I was talking to what they would do if they didn't have this job. Some people perked up and described wholly-formed schemes to be a store owner or a comedian or a screenwriter or a professional sailor. They had an escape fantasy. The (fewer) people, genuinely happy as  a lawyer at a big firm, had to think about it for a while-- they didn't spend their time imagining a different existence.

I have no escape fantasies. And I give thanks for that.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

 

Now up on HuffPo…

This piece probably won't get a lot of hits, but it was good to work through writing it.

God, or Not, on the F train

Friday, July 24, 2015

 

Haiku Friday: Dream Job!

Hi, Razor friends! I am pretty happy that I have had a number of dream jobs-- including my current one.  When I was a kid, I thought a dream job might be driving a cookie truck, and I still think it sounds pretty appealing.

Let's haiku about dream jobs, present, past, or future. You can write about a childhood dream, or the one you have now.

Here, I will go first:

I'd be a bad king
Or sous chef or male model
I got lucky, huh?

Now it is your turn! Just make it 5/7/5 on the syllable count and have some fun!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: Trump the Frontrunner



Something very strange has happened in the presidential race, even as an intriguing candidate (John Kasich) entered the race: Pretty much everyone seems obsessed with Donald Trump. This is probably not a good thing for America, but people seem unable to look away.

In the New York Times, Frank Bruni put it well:

If we discuss Trump, as I’ve done in several columns, we reward his bad and transcendently self-serving behavior, no matter how negative our assessments of him or how many larger truths we engage.

If we don’t discuss him, we ignore something real, in a fashion that’s irresponsible.

By something real, I mean the fact that Trump has measurable support, at least for now. In a nationwide ABC News/Washington Post poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents that was released Monday, he was in the lead for the party’s presidential nomination, the favorite of 24 percent of respondents. The next closest contenders were Scott Walker (13 percent) and Jeb Bush (12).

I have three general thoughts about what is happening (all of which have been articulated by others in various ways):

1) Yeah, this is terrible for Republicans, because they present a fascinating diversity of candidates, and none of them are being heard. What a campaign craves is media attention, but the air has been sucked out of the room by the Trump phenomena.

2) It's not that great for Democrats, either. If Hillary Clinton is to build support now, she needs to be seen. Trump distracts from her, and she has hurt herself by running a stilted, conservative campaign that seems terrified of allowing the candidate to truly be seen. The Trump effect and Clinton's carefulness have created an opening for Bernie Sanders, the candidate on the Democratic side who has been the most surprising thus far.

3) I'm not so sure that support for Trump will evaporate immediately, as some think. The truth is that his brash anger appeals to a substantial plurality of Republicans-- the Tea Party folks who are mad as hell, don't trust establishment candidates, and didn't like John McCain anyways. The reason that some of the Republican candidates haven't strongly condemned Trump is that they realize this. Going forward, of course, those activists will face the usual disillusionment as the establishment chooses a moderate candidate like Jeb Bush.

4) It will be really depressing to me to watch Hillary Clinton run against Jeb Bush, as both are so carefully managed, handled, and cabined.  Now, Bernie Sanders v. Donald Trump… yowsa! But then the election is over and there would be the prospect of "President Trump."




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

 

Oh, Sepp!

Is it wrong that I like this so much?


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 

Expand the Big 12?


As pretty much everyone expected, re-alignment of college football conferences has not finished, even after a raft of moves, including the following:

Nebraska from the Big 12 to the Big 10
Missouri and Texas A & M from the Big 12 to the SEC
Rutgers from the Big East to the Big 10
Maryland from the ACC to the Big 10
Colorado from the Big 12 to the PAC-12
West Virginia and TCU into the Big 12

Now the Big 12 finds itself as the smallest of the major conferences, with only 10 teams-- not enough to split into divisions and host a championship game. Estimable Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder recently weighed in to support expanding the league by two more teams. At least then, the name would fit!

Because the members of the "Power 5" conferences are locked in by TV contracts, newcomers to the Big 12 would probably have to come from the pool of schools outside of those conferences. Here are the teams that might be considered for such a move:

BYU
Cincinnati
Boise State
UConn
Univ. of Houston
Memphis
University of Southern Florida
University of Central Florida

To my mind, only one of those schools has the combination of size, athletic ability, and academic reputation to fit into a league like the Big 12-- BYU. But, adding just one school doesn't help much. What should the other addition be?


Monday, July 20, 2015

 

IPLawGuy rules!

Crikeys! IPLG just was on a roll last week. The subject was ice cream. Check out all of his entries, but my favorite was this one:

My Mom still recalls
Clinton, Iowa childhood
A & W.


Then there was this one, based on a true story (he needed to have at least one hand on the wheel:

Marfa Dairy Queen
Osler would not let me drive
while eating Blizzard.


Renee was drawn back in by IPLG's fine work, I think:

She herself is a
Peach,this bud,this seedling child.
Tastes,wants another

Of the cold yum that
Swirls to her lips.it is her
First cogniscent joy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

 

Sunday Reflection: The Futility of "Your religion is wrong!"



Yesterday I was walking down Michigan Avenue near the Water Tower, and saw an older man sitting on a lawn chair handing out religious tracts. I reached out for one (I love reading religious tracts), and for some reason he snatched back the one he had been proffering to the crowd and instead handed me another. Titled, "The Pilgrimage," the pamphlet was produced by Battle-Axe Ministry of Gary, Indiana in 1999.

"The Pilgrimage" centers on one Dr. Abdul Ali, an older Muslim man who is shown returning from Mecca. He has completed his tenth Hajj, and has paid for several young men to make the journey with him. His wife waits for him at the airport, proud of his generous support of his faith and the less affluent men he has helped.

As his wife watches in horror from the terminal, the plane crashes nose-first into the runway (a disaster blamed on a failed landing gear, which seems a little odd). 247 people die, including Dr. Ali.

Next thing we know, Dr. Ali is shown meeting an angel, who takes him to visit with Jesus. Jesus informs Dr. Ali that not only is he not going to heaven, but Muhammed is not their, either. Jesus then closes the deal by informing Dr. Ali that "Allah is a satanic counterfeit." When Dr. Ali protests that he "was a very sincere Muslim," Jesus tells him that "you were sincerely wrong."

I can't believe that this is an effective way to reach out to Muslims, even if your goal is to convert them. It's not only offensive, it's just bad evangelism.

 It reflects a theology that is alien to me, too-- one that disclaims good works by people of faith, asserting that faith alone is enough to get to heaven. (Obviously, Dr. Ali's good works were the ones being diminished here, but the quotations-- i.e., to Ephesians 2:8-9-- make it clear that this tenet is important to  Battle-Axe Ministry. This claim is important to a large swath of Christians who argue against the importance of good works in the present day and attack the social gospel and the idea of social justice.

Jesus directed us to do good works, unambiguously: To feed the poor, to heal the sick, and to visit those in prison. More directly, we have him instructing a virtuous young man who comes to him and specifically asks what he must do to get to heaven. The answer, famously, is that the rich man must sell what he has and give it to the poor. He must do a good work, and be generous. Does it get clearer than that?

Jesus gave us two great commandments: To love God, and to love our neighbor. Neither commandment can be fulfilled without action. If you doubt that, consider what Christ taught when he was asked "who is my neighbor-- the one we must love?" Jesus answers that with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which reveals two things. First, that our neighbor may be those we revile or distrust. Second, that love requires action, as the Good Samaritan's love wasn't good thoughts-- it was saving the wounded traveler.

Maybe I need to stop trying to get tracts….







Saturday, July 18, 2015

 

The Beer/Hair dilemma


IPLawGuy recently took this photo, showing a classic beer/hair issue. What do you think someone in IPLawGuy's position (I'm assuming that is his beer and right foot, judging by the Franksteinish nature of the foot) should do?


Friday, July 17, 2015

 

Haiku Friday: Ice cream!


I really love ice cream… probably more than I should. Especially in the summer, it's safe to say it is my favorite food, and I love summer food.

It can mean a lot of things… but I love every permutation (except bacon ice cream-- that's just gross). Hard, soft, plain or fancy, it all is good to me.

Let's haiku about that this week!

Here, I will go first:

Up North, Michigan
A joint called the Pine Cone
Lives on in my dreams.

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

Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: The Deal with Iran


A deal got done, between several nations and Iran, to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities. The best explanation of the deal was in the New York Times yesterday.

Politically, here is what happens next: The Congress can vote to approve it, disapprove it, or take no position. If they disapprove it, President Obama can veto that legislation, meaning it can only be over-ridden by a supermajority 2/3ds vote.

My initial inclination is to embrace this agreement. A negotiated outcome is the best of three possible choices, the others being to do nothing or take pre-emptive military action.

Doing nothing is to simply forfeit our influence and allow Iran to continue towards development of nuclear weapons.

Taking military action would likely lead to disaster and another lengthy foreign war.

Of the three options, which do you think is best?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

 

The Big Announcement!!!!!




NEW YORK—July 14, 2015—NYU School of Law announced the launch of the Clemency Resource Center (CRC), a pop-up law office within the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law (CACL).
The CRC will exist for one year, with the sole purpose of preparing and submitting federal clemency petitions at no cost to prisoners. Beginning with a staff of seven attorneys, the CRC will work closely with Clemency Project 2014, an ongoing initiative designed to identify and find counsel for worthy clemency candidates, and will provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who likely would have received shorter sentences had they been sentenced today.
The CRC was co-founded by Rachel Barkow, Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy at NYU Law, andMark Osler, who holds the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of St. Thomas. Erin Collins, a former public defender and acting assistant professor at NYU Law, serves as executive director. Generously funded by Open Society Foundations, the CRC will begin work in August.
The CRC is unique in that it addresses an immediate short-term opportunity. President Obama has clearly signaled his intent to use the constitutional tool of clemency to address over-incarceration.
Clemency Project 2014 aims to identify all federal inmates who seek help and meet criteria released by the US Department of Justice. The project relies entirely on the help of pro bono attorneys to review and submit petitions. “Too many non-violent prisoners are serving unduly harsh prison terms based on repudiated laws and policies. That means we have quite a bit of work ahead,” said Cynthia Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014. “This is an all-hands-on-deck situation and we welcome the support of the Clemency Resource Center.”
“The CRC isn’t a clinic, or a conventional legal aid organization, or an advocacy group. It is a factory of justice,” said Osler, a former federal prosecutor.
CACL has worked on clemency cases and reform of the pardon process since 2013 as part of the Mercy Project, an initiative that pursues commutations for federal prisoners who are serving very long sentences for typically non-violent drug crimes.
“The Clemency Resource Center is the latest step in our efforts to improve criminal justice in the United States and to help correct past miscarriages of justice,” said Barkow, faculty director for CACL.
During its year of operation, the CRC will utilize the talents of CACL student fellows as well as of CACL executive director Deborah Gramiccioni, a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey and at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

 

The President Steps Up


Monday, July 13, 2015

 

DDR, I gotta ask...

Where DID your family go on vacation, resulting in this haiku?

This trip, we walked
Step after step, forever
Behind us, just flames.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

 

Sunday Reflection: Night


This week, I was in New York for work (more on that in a few days-- a big announcement!). I was working in Manhattan and staying in Brooklyn. I traveled back and forth on the F train.

I like to have something to read on the train, so I stopped into a beautiful little bookstore called Terrace Books. For three dollars I bought a used copy of Elie Wiesel's Night, a memoir of his time in Nazi concentration camps. I had read the book before, when I found it in a "free book" box in the Baylor philosophy department, and decided to read it again.

Of course, it is not an easy book. "Unbearably painful" was part of a blurb on the back, and the cover blurb described the "terrifying power" of the story within.

On the train, I found myself sitting next to a Hasidic man who was also reading. Next to him was an Indian woman reading a book, and next to her was an elderly Chinese man reading a book. The train wends through Brooklyn's neighborhood-- Coney Island, Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Midwood, Borough Park, Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and DUMBO-- so the train carried a remarkable variety of people. Just as remarkable was that it seems to be a last vestige of book-reading in the US. Sure, a lot of people were staring at their phone, but the lack of service seems to have driven others to the old-school ways.

Wiesel was 15 when the Hungarians turned over half a million Jews to the German machinery of death. He traveled through several concentration and extermination camps with his father, only to have his father die after months of torment. The horrors he witnessed are nearly unspeakable, but it is important and remarkable that he spoke them.

In the course of the book, Wiesel sees the worst of humanity, and it leads him away from the God that had been at the center of his life: "But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy."

Many have read Night,  but fewer know that the autobiographical book (Wiesel calls it his "deposition") is the first in a trilogy. The second book, Dawn, is a novel which carries the story in a fictional direction during and after the holocaust. The third book, Day, is also a fictional account of the same person, who is now in New York City and is hit by a cab. It is an odd trajectory, to go from truth in such a grounded, horrifying way, on to imagined, later outcomes. Or maybe it isn't. Don't we all do that, at times? We process the worst things by imagining not a remaking of the core event, but ourselves. It is a way of survival, of coming out to meaning. We cannot deny that there was a Holocaust, but we sometimes imagine ways we could transcend the horrors that people-- even ourselves-- can do. It is a way of finding hope. When I arrived in Manhattan, I set to my work with greater focus.

As I finished a particularly grueling passage of the book, I wanted to turn to the Hasidic man next to me and hear his thoughts. He was two inches away, his tall black hat inclined towards his own book. How could his book about God co-exist with this one? He had a way. But I did not ask.

Here in Minnesota, the lakes are sparkling, and throngs of people will soon be flying around them on bikes. The rains have brought everything to a brilliant green, and there is a faint scent of smoke from barbecues over the lawns. How do these go together under one God?

That, I don't know.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

 

Great news from a newly emboldened president...

On Thursday of next week, President Obama is going to visit the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, according to Politico:

President Barack Obama will become the first sitting chief executive to visit a federal prison when he goes to El Reno, Oklahoma, next week to meet with law enforcement officials and inmates as part of the administration’s push for criminal-justice reform.

“Next week, the president will underscore the administration’s focus on the need to reform and improve America’s criminal justice system,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during Friday’s news briefing.


This matters. And it gives me great hope.

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