Friday, April 30, 2010


Haiku Friday: Baylor Getting Fun?

Is it just me, or does it seem like Baylor is getting more fun just as I'm leaving? The video above is a flash mob on mid-campus earlier this week. Really? Baylor? Excellent!

Let's Haiku about Baylor, and what we might want to see in future flash mobs...

Feel free to use the first line "My Baylor flash mob:" Or, you can do anything you would like that is Baylor-related.

Here is mine--

My Baylor flash mob:
Every law student here
Singing "Iron Man."

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Arizona Immigration Law

Earlier this week, Arizona enacted a very strict immigration law, which makes failure to carry immigration documents a state crime and allows local and state police broad authority to stop suspected immigrants and examine those documents.

Is this a good idea? I will hang up and listen, and then chime in later.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Tomorrow Morning on KWBU-FM

In the morning, I will be joining Brodie Bashaw and Derek Smith on KWBU, 103.3-FM, for their spring pledge drive. There is a certain sadness and urgency hanging over the pledge drive this year, as it was just announced that Waco is losing its public television station because of a lack of funding. Donations are down at our public radio station, too, so I'm going to urge people to call (254) 710-7444 to make sure that doesn't happen to 103.3, as well.

As an added bonus, Prof. Larry Bates is kicking in $500 as a matching grant, so if we can raise that much, there will be $500 less for Bates to spend on, you know, other stuff. Which might be good. Well, unless it is the excellent beer he brings over to my house. I want him to still be able to afford that.

Also, if we don't raise $2.3 million between 7 and 9 a.m., I will move to Minnesota. Seriously, I will. This isn't some Alec Baldwin thing...


"No" says Osler.

I'm beginning to realize that if you want something to change, a short argument read by 400,000 people may have more of an effect than a long one read by 70 (most of whom already agree with you). That's why I was glad to see this USA Today piece in today's paper.



To everything there is a season. A time to break down and a time to build up, a time to tear and a time to sew, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

To me, May and June have always been a time to dance. It is a time of graduations and weddings, and I am looking forward to both in the next few months. It is a time when the weather is at its best, a time to sit outside as the sun goes down with a friend or two; a pleasure I had last night.

A person with joy in their heart can dance to almost anything, or nothing at all. Given that, though, what is the best music to dance to, on these warm Spring nights?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


We must build a turtle fence!

I am re-posting this for several reasons:

1) I have been singing the Turtle Fence song all day.

2) It brings together football and a mullet, which is part of my plan for the weekend,

3) I am hoping to find out more about this Manatee of Jobs,

4) Is that true about what goes on in shady bars? If so, where could I find one in Waco?

5) Because we must build a turtle fence.

6) It seems that Rep. Peter Hoekstra makes the same hand motion I do!


Movies I don't understand

It's late at night. I am watching "Terminator: Salvation." I have no idea what is going on, but I keep watching, hoping it will become clear. It doesn't.

Too often, I find myself not comprehending the movie I am watching. Here are my top five incomprehensible movies:

1) 2001: A Space Odyssey
2) Terminator: Salvation
3) The Fog
4) Mary Poppins
5) Transformers 2

And yes, I am serious about Mary Poppins. What the heck is the deal with Bert? And what is going on with Mary Poppins? Is she some kind of witch or ghost? Or is all the flying and "spoonful of sugar" stuff just reference to drugs?

Monday, April 26, 2010



This is the best time of year to do anything outside in Texas-- cook, eat, walk, run, drive, putt... it's just perfect. And it doesn't last long... so smoke 'em while you got 'em.

Personally, I love to grill in this kind of weather. Here, in order of relative quality, is what you might grill:

1) Salmon
2) Hamburgers
3) Steak
4) Shrimp
5) Pork tenderloin
6) Corn
7) Vegetables
8) Goat
9) Muesli
9b) Jell-O Brand Pudding Pops
10) Diet soda (in cans)


The Truth about Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco

Let's be honest: My work has its critics. There are people who think that I am wrong in my conclusions, that my advocacy work detracts from my teaching, or that what I write is not sufficiently theoretical. At times, they may have been right. To keep going, though, I have always counted on the people at Seventh and James to be there for me. I have never been a part of an institution so loving, supportive, and kind.

For those of you not familiar with it, Seventh is a church full of characters. There are a thousand opinions on any subject, lively debate, serious engagement with scripture, and constant attention to one another's needs. It is this church (and my students) which I will miss most about Waco.

I have often thought that you can tell a lot about a church by the children within it. The children at Seventh are bold. They think and play with every setting at "11." The picture above is from Easter-- Jessica Best insisted that I wear her Easter hat, and you don't turn down a little girl in full Easter garb. It's that kind of place.

Yesterday was Youth Sunday, and the sermons by Talj Tatum and Lincoln Crowder were stunning-- clear, thoughtful, accessible, and compelling. We are not a clapping church, but we should have been that day. I'm thankful for them, I'm thankful for the ministers at that church, but more than anything I am thankful for the animating spirit of Seventh which comes through in the members, through all the changes time brings, and which lets a soul like mine thrive despite my flaws.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Rest

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

It has been a busy week. On Sunday, I was in New Haven for Dan Freed's memorial service. On Monday, after getting home after one a.m., I had my last oral advocacy lecture ever with Hulitt Gloer, and then my "last lecture" that night. On Wednesday, I had my last Crim. Prac. and Pro. class at Baylor (which was really emotional for me-- I love that class and the students taking it this quarter), then talked to the first quarter students in the afternoon as part of Intro to Law (and got emotional all over again). Thursday, I spent three hours in the evening talking to volunteers at the Advocacy Center for victims of crime (at a training workshop). Friday, I had an interview with USA Today and the usual end-of-quarter things, then yesterday I went on pretty emotional road trip (details in a few weeks), then stayed laaaaaate at a good party last night.

Now, I am tired. I am physically tired, but also emotionally and spiritually drained. It was a week in which I had to be "on" every day in a public way, in emotion-laden situation.

How should I rest from all this? I am having trouble quieting my soul to confront all that which lays ahead.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


My Wrestling Name

I'm thinking that if I have some time later this summer, I may take up pro wrestling. Here are the leading contenders for my "wrestling name"--

1) The Razor
2) The Sentencer
3) The Ruthless Panda
4) The Ex-Prosecutor
5) David K'Rush (a Branch Davidian Reference)


Friday, April 23, 2010


Haiku Friday: Appetizers

It's been a long day, and now I'm hungry. We are coming up on dinner-party season (at least that's what I'm thinking), and that means appetizers.

Why not haiku on them? The first line this week will be "Best Appetizer--"

Here is mine:

Best appetizer--
Bacon-wrapped shrimp served
With hint of a smile.

Now it is your turn... (and feel free to mess with the structure this week).

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Making things right

On Sunday, I was in New Haven, Connecticut for the memorial for one of my heroes. Prof. Dan Freed of Yale coaxed, inspired, instructed, and guilted me into my passion for sentencing. It was an incredible gift. I have had other mentors, such as IPLawGuy and Judge Jan DuBois, but Prof. Freed was the one who most shaped my true vocation.

The service was held in the main auditorium at Yale Law, followed by a high tea. There were eight speakers: Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law; Kate Stith, a Yale Law Prof.; Lawrence Young, a Yale Med. Prof.; Ron Weich, the Assistant Attorney General; Geoffrey Shields, the Dean of Vermont Law; Sofia Yakren, of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman, Judge Nancy Gertner; and Peter Freed, who is a psych. prof. at Columbia. They all gave moving and meaningful remembrances; Judge Gertner even quoted this post from the Razor in her exceptional talk.

There was one story arc that ran through many of the remarks. Prof. Freed worked very hard in the 1970's to help reform federal sentencing. One of his more significant contributions was to organize conferences at Yale that produced reform recommendations. Some of those recommendations, in fact, formed the basis for the federal sentencing guidelines. In a way, then, Dan Freed was one of the fathers of the guidelines.

He was not a part of the sentencing commission, itself, though, and that was a great tragedy. The guidelines that resulted were not what would have resulted had his guiding voice been a part of that process. Soon after the guideline era began, Professor Freed saw the problems in this new machine-- he heard the grating noises before many others and began his critiques of this product of his own conferences.

It's remarkable, really-- he spent much of his career critiquing something he had helped create, a project that would have been the crowning achievement of most careers. There is such greatness in that humility-- that he saw the flaws without defensiveness, and let his legacy be his prophetic voice.

Which of our current public figures should do the same? Who would you love to see critique his or her own work, and work to change what they helped to make?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Steel Studies 1 & 2



I'm lying on the floor in a pizza stupor. It's Rosati's fault.

The best pizza in Waco:

1) Rosati's
2) Baris
3) Poppa Rollo's


He shoots, he scores!

Thanks again to Chris Philley...


At random: Stay humble, stay low, blow like Hootie...

That's one bad haircut (on me, on the right). Talk about humbling.

Meanwhile, Tim Woods did a great job describing the "last lecture" for the Waco Tribune-Herald; you can see the story here. Also, as a heads-up, tomorrow's political mayhem Thursday will be in tribute to Dan Freed (who knew a thing or two about political mayhem).

For today, though, I'd like to share a quote that one of the Hairstons posted somewhere else (apparently a quote from some 80's movie): ""Anything less than mad, passionate, extraordinary love is a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life to deal with and love shouldn't be one of them."

True? And, if so, is it true for both love of people and ideas?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The Last Lecture

[Photo by Daniel Cernero for the Lariat]

No one won the "guess the title" contest! My "Last Lecture" actually was on topic #3: "Slow-Jamming the Rule Against Perpetuities." Seriously. My larger point was that the Rule is about allowing things to change. The heart of it was 7 epiphanies I have had while teaching here, and how they changed me. It lasted exactly 35 minutes. I was really surprised by the people who came, including some I haven't met yet (such as Regina Kelly, the real-life Dee in the American Violet story).

And then I left, with the help of Adam Garst, Josh Gonzales, Andrew Dilday, and Chris Ramirez from Baylor Theater. (The totally awesome Melissa Johnson coordinated this part).

If you were there, maybe some of you can explain it better than I have-- I am tired!

The Lariat (Baylor's student newspaper) article is here.

Peter Pope has already weighed in.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Last Lecture Topic Pondering...

I will post later in the week about the service for Dan Freed in New Haven yesterday. Suffice it to say that it was an overwhelming emotional experience.

For now, though, a quiz. One of the following is the actual subject for my "last lecture" tonight (really). Can you guess which one?

1) Blue Laws and Blue People: Superficial moralities from Adam to Avatar.

2) It's 2 AM, and I Am Worried About What My Friends Are Doing In That Convenience Store in Atlanta.

3) Slow-Jamming the Rule Against Perpetuities.

4) Harvard Women, A & M Men, and Crack Cocaine: Midnight in the 313.

5) What's That Smell?

[feel free to make your own suggestions as well]


So now the FBI is in on it!

Last week, I received my favorite Nigerian money order scam email ever! Check it out:




The federal bureau of investigation (FBI).Through our intelligence-monitoring
network has discovered that the transaction that the bank contacted you
previously was legal.Recently
the fund has been legally approved to be paid via Central Bank of Nigeria.

So, we, the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) Washington Dc, in conjunction
with the United Nations (UN) financial department have investigated through our
monitoring network noting that your transaction with the Central Bank of Nigeria
legal. You have the legitimate right to complete your transaction to claim your
fund US$10.7,000,000.00 (Ten million Seven Hundred Thousand united states dollars)
Because of so much scam going on in Nigeria.We the federal bureau
of investigation decided to contact the FedEx Courier Service Company in Nigeria
for them to give us their procedures on how to sent this money to you without
any further complain or delay. We just got an information from the Central Bank
of Nigeria and they have loaded your US$10.7,000,000.00 in ATM CARD and submit to
the FedEx courier service company for immediate delivery to your doorstep.

You are required to choose one option, which you will be able to pay and also
convenient for you, for quick delivery of your parcel containing your ATM CARD
and other two original back up documents.

Service Type | Delivery Duration | Charges/Fees

Premium Express (24hrs Delivery)
Mailing $200.00 00.00
Insurance $150.00 00.00
Vat $100.00 00.00
TOTAL $450.00
$450(Four Hundred and fifty US Dollars Only).

Looking forward to hear from you as soon as you receive this message
Best Regards,

Robert S. Mueller III
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C.
20535-0001, USA

So, what's the MOST outlandish part of this scam?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Remembrances of Things Not Yet Past

Today I am in New Haven for the memorial service for one of my primary mentors, Prof. Dan Freed. I have already written of his death, and won't repeat that here.

Instead, I will simply say that these occasions are best for me when they have solemnity and laughter, sadness and grace, truth and light. I think this will be that kind.

Perhaps it is not an accident that this memorial is one day and my "Last Lecture" is the next. Solemnity and laughter, sadness and grace, truth and light-- not a bad recipe.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


New Blog Alert!

An incoming 1L has a blog! Check it out: Tanny's News.


Note to self...

Don't ever, ever, try to grow a mustache again. (Cheating at cards, however, is still ok. At least if you are on a train).

Friday, April 16, 2010


Thank you, Dallas ADA!

None other than the Razor's own Dallas ADA came in on Thursday to help with Crim Prac. and Pro., to explain the ins and outs of how people get a job as, well, a Dallas ADA. It was practical, useful, and relevant. Thanks, man!


Haiku Friday: Graduation season

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

We are on the verge of graduation season-- Baylor Law's spring commencement is only a few weeks away now, hard as that is to believe. I'm thinking hard about the commencement address I'll be giving at Vanguard High School here in Waco. It seems especially important, in a way, because I have no direct connection to that school. I'm going to make it really good. In addition, the "Last Lecture" I will be giving on Monday has some overtones of commencement to it as well.

The picture above is at my own college commencement; I am outside of William and Mary Hall with my Mom. I had tried out for commencement speaker but was rejected as too "iconoclastic." Probably true, in retrospect. Our speaker dutifully talked about us "taking on the world." That type of phrasing was not part of what I had planned to say.

So, let's haiku about graduations. To make it easy, I will provide the first line: "Graduation day:" Just follow that with a seven-syllable line and a five-syllable line, and you have a haiku!

Here is mine:

Graduation Day:
Sunburned feet and racing mind,
Horizon line fades.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Tax Policy

Today is tax day.

Does it need to be like this? I am inherently suspicious of complexity in law, as it is within complexity that injustice usually lies. In simple things, injustice is laid bare for critique, and lasts only so long as the public will bear the unfairness. With complexity, injustices, waste, and bias can be hidden a thousand ways, safe from the understanding of those most hurt.

Is a flat tax the right answer? I worry that a simple flat tax is not the answer, as it would get rid of some of the progressive aspects of our system. However, I think a few simple modification could make an almost-flat tax the right option.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


How life is different when you are 40-something...

OMG! You won't BELIEVE what happened today! Ok, so, like, there is this woman, Nina, who I have been totally in love with since, like, 4EVA!!!1! Not that I ever talked to her or anything, but I would see her all the time and heard her talking to her friends, like, every single day. She is totally hot, like scary-hot, in a public-intellectual sort of way.

Anyways, today my BFF Jill said she was going to send Nina a note about me! I was so totally nervous. Anyways, she did, and Nina wrote her back and asked for my cell phone number! SERIOUSLY!!! So, I know it's TOTALLY a long-shot she will ever call, but, OMG! What if she does? I will totally, like, FREAK! Then I will talk about sentencing policy!!!1!

So tonight I got an extra-large Rosati's pizza and ate, like, the whole thing myself, and now I am lying on the couch like a whale.

Nina, you have my number. Txt me anytime. UR awesum!!1!


Things I kind of wish I had lost...

I'm starting to sort through the stuff in my attic and elsewhere in preparation for the move, and I'm finding some things I had.... forgotten about.

For example, it appears from certain physical evidence that I was awarded "Most Improved" on the Grosse Pointe Shores Swim Team in both 1974 AND 1975. Really? How bad was I in 1973? There is something pretty pathetic about being most improved two consecutive years!

Making things worse, the 1974 award was a plastic turtle.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The Last Lecture

I have begun brooding over what to say at the "Last Lecture," which I will give this coming Monday night at 6 in room 127 of Baylor Law School. I hope that lots of people, including former students, will come to see it. It makes me sad just to think of it, even though I won't actually be dying immediately after the lecture (as the title implies). I feel an obligation to make it really good.

Any ideas on what I should say? I'm open to suggestions...

Monday, April 12, 2010


2011 Razor Law School Rankings Leaked!

I was going to hold off for a few more days, but why delay the truth? The Razor rankings are based on arbitrary measures determined by one person, me. Here are the factors which I have taken into consideration:

28%: How pretty the school should be, based on the name.
19%: Proximity of the school to New Haven, Connecticut.
12%: Celebrity status of the Dean.
11% Number of wacky adventures by madcap students and profs.
9% Obama-relatedness.
7%: Relative deliciousness if it was a food of some kind.
6% Other schools have confusingly similar names (scores are combined).
5%: Faculty names that sound vaguely familiar.
2%: Bar passage rate.

Herewith, the rankings:

1) Yale (As required by federal law)
2) Harvard (Not far from New Haven, Obama related, wacky prof. adventures)
3) Wake Forest (Sounds really really pretty)
4) University of Virginia (Sounds pretty, nutritious)
5) University of Penn. (Same)
6) Emory (Pretty-sounding, wacky adventures)
7) Pepperdine (Celebrity dean, sounds good to eat)
8) UC-Irvine (Celebrity dean, far from NH, sounds terrible to eat)
9) NYU (close to New Haven, wacky adventures)
10) Univ. of Chicago (wacky adventures, Obama related)
11) Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (first part sounds delicious, second part awful)
12) Washington and Lee (Sounds pretty, few wacky adventures)
13) Dartmouth Univ. William and Delores Tiramisu School of Law (Delicious!)
14) Hastings (Wacky adventures, tasty, sadly distant from NH)
15) UConn (Close to New Haven, pretty)
16) Columbia Univ. (Close to New Haven, too few wacky adventures)
17) Stanford (Far from NH, troubling lack of Obama relatedness)
18) UC-Berkely Boalt Hall (Far from NH, sounds disgusting to eat)
19) Quinnipiac (Pretty much in NH, might taste good if slow-roasted)
20) Washington (confusing name covers Univ. Wash., Wash U. in St. Louis, GWU)


What should be required in law school?

Generally, in law school curriculums (this is not about Baylor, specifically) the following classes are required in the first year:

Civil Procedure
Criminal Law
Legal writing

In the later years, the following is required at some point:

Constitutional law
Criminal Procedure

Is this out of date? How might curriculums be restructured to better fit modern practice?


The Ark

It causes me great pain to say this, but this has become a season of "lasts." Time and again, I realize it is the last time at Baylor I will do something-- this week, for example, I had the bittersweet pleasure of teaching my last Crim. Prac. and Pro. class with Dr. Blaine McCormick. Four or five years ago, we came up with using his expertise in social science and negotiation to teach my students how to negotiate plea bargains. The result was wonderful-- probably the country's only law school course with such a sharp focus on such an important skill for criminal practitioners. Each time, I learned something from Dr. McCormick, and each time it was about something beyond negotiation-- it was about how to teach.

This Sunday, I woke up restless. For whatever reason, I wanted to go to a different church, so I went to Calvary Baptist here in Waco. It is a church I have been to only once before, but I wasn't exactly anonymous there-- my former student Aaron Mutnick was one of the greeters at the door.

The service was real and whole and spirit-filled. When it was time for the "Children's Message," I saw that the person giving that talk was none other than Blaine McCormick.

To begin, he gave each of the children a print of Melissa Miller's 1986 painting The Ark, the original of which hangs in the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. He talked to them about the animals in the painting, but also about what was not actually in the painting-- the ark itself. Part of the ramp is visible, but that is all; the focus is on the animals, not the ship. In closing, he said that if someone painted their church, it should be like this-- a painting of the people, not the building.

As he told this story, I recognized something important: The key elements of his presentation were the same as those he used when he taught any group, even law students or other professors. He started by talking about himself, in this case, about a favorite painting. He used humor throughout, but only in ways that related directly to his message. He insisted on interaction, and knew the names of the people he was addressing. He focused on simple messages, but applied them to more complex situations. Finally, he made sure there was a "take-away"-- in this case, a print of the painting itself.

Speaking to children in the same whole, real, meaningful way he speaks to adults-- I expected nothing less. I will dearly miss these lessons.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Shiny objects and true light

On Friday after class I walked over to Brooks College to share lunch with a tremendously talented undergrad, Christian Latham, who will someday be a tremendously talented lawyer. On my way back, I stopped into the Baylor bookstore, still deep in thought about what Christian will someday contribute to our society. Suddenly, though, I saw something I craved.

There was an iPad. I had seen one but not played with one yet, and I had longed to do so. I literally ran over to it, and felt its lightness in my hand, then quickly pulled something up on the beautiful screen, and then...

Behind me, someone said, "Mark. Mark Osler."

I turned around and it was Taylor Sandlin and his wife. Taylor is a minister, Razorite, and author of a blog I read regularly, Between Sundays. He is one of my heroes, but I had never met him, much as I have hoped to.

One thing about the internet is that too often I get to know someone this way and don't know what to do with a real-life connection. With Taylor, because of my great admiration for him, I was kind of star-struck. I didn't know what to say, really, and I later thought of all the things I should have said... it was one of those moments I had hoped for but not planned for. I have a lot of questions for Taylor; I asked none of them. I have no problem dealing with TV people and the like, but they aren't my heroes.

You may wonder why I would be star-struck in the presence of a minister. In part, I think it is because that is kind of my alternate life-- I would have loved to have taken that path, and I greatly admire those who have and who do it well. Also, my heroes are almost always people who do something better than I can, and Taylor is one of those-- he deals with faith issues with a gentleness, depth, and understanding that I do not approach. If I were a minister, I think I would want to be like him.

Awkwardly, I said my good-byes and walked back to the law school, thinking of what I should have said. I suppose that the iPad is still there, tethered to a desk by a thin cord to foil those who would steal it. It doesn't matter so much to me anymore. Shiny things are not always connected to the light of truth, whether that light comes through questions or answers. Should I buy an iPad?

Where your treasure lies, there lies your heart.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Moderation and Change

I am coming to understand something about myself-- I think that I am getting to be a good speaker, but have a ways to go before I become a good moderator. It is a different skill, and one I don't quite have yet. At Harvard this week I loved my speaking role as an advocate (in the evening) but was much less comfortable as a moderator earlier in the day.

There are people I know (Bob Cochran at Pepperdine is one) who are fabulous moderators. They give good, kind, and true introductions, and then facilitate transitions in the conversation with a gentle ease. It is a skill I greatly admire, because it combines elements of humility, service, intelligence, and focus that are wonderful in combination.

In the end, I wonder if it is not the moderators, the people who bring disparate voices together and facilitate discussion, who often change the world in the most profound ways.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Justice Stevens Steps Down

Today, Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will be retiring from the Supreme Court. Though he is nearly ninety years old, Justice Stevens is still one of the most intellectually active of the justices. Last week, in the Dillon arguments, he was his typical vigorous self, taking on both counsel with equal vigor and adding notes of sharp wit to the discussion.

January 5, 2005, the Booker decision came out, striking down the mandatory sentencing guidelines. Like everyone else in criminal law, I raced through the opinions when midway through the second Stevens opinion I was stopped cold by footnote 15. There, in black and white, he quoted several lines of an article I had written. It was the highest compliment I had ever received-- that a Justice not only had read my work, but chosen to include my words within his own.

He is leaving while he is on top of his game, and that is a wise choice typical of his career.


Haiku Beach Friday

Summer is coming. Sure, that's obvious in Texas, but today it was hot in Boston and New York and Washington, and that makes people think about the beach.

I know I am.

Today, the last line of the haiku will be "We were at the beach." Just precede that line with a first line of five syllables and a second line of seven, and you have a haiku. Here is mine:

I have no idea
Why she wore a sailor suit;
We were at the beach.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: Is the U.S. a "Christian Nation?"

Is it fair to call the United States a Christian nation? Should the dictates of the majority faith shape the laws of the country?

I will take some comments before weighing in myself.


Dusk Approaches

Here is what I have to look forward to:

1) The Last Lecture/Baylor Law School Rm. 127/6 pm/Monday, April 19

Sunday the 18th, I will get back from the services for Dan Freed in New Haven. The next day, BLS students have asked me to give a "Last Lecture," which I am really looking forward to. All are welcome; please come! I'm hoping that I will not actually be killed after the speech.

2) Social Worker Training/Advocacy Center, Waco/Thursday, April 22

Last fall, I did ethics training for Baylor's Social Work School. This month, I will provide the same three hours for the social workers at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims here in Waco. It's a lot of effort, but it's worth it-- these are great people.

3) McLennan County Bar Association/Friday, May 14

I will talk about sentencing. I may also do some liturgical dance. Lawyers eat that stuff up.

4) Jesus on Death Row/New York Ave. Presby. Church, Wash. D.C./Sunday, May 23

On Sunday evening, I will be talking about the death penalty at Lincoln's church, which is just a few blocks from the White House. There will be some other things in DC about then, too-- more about that later.

5) Vanguard High Commencement/Waco/Friday, May 28

I was surprised and honored to be asked to be the commencement speaker at Vanguard this year! There are some great kids graduating, and I look forward to this opportunity.

How's that for variety?:

Law School
Social Work Center
Bar Association
High School

It's a good life...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


A Griffin!

William and Mary, through the use of this video, has announced the conclusion of the year-long search for a new mascot. Here is our winner, the Griffin:

The Griffin may have some issues (why did they name him "Fontbonne?" And why not have him wear the school colors?), but he probably was better than some of these other candidates:

1) Keggy the Keg:

2) H.E.Buddy:

3) Tiny Larry Bates:


James Nortey Rocks It

Things went pretty well at Harvard yesterday. I was happier with my performance in the evening than at noon, but overall it was a good day.

Our panel discussion on federal drug policy at mid-day drew 86 people by my count, which was pretty surprising, given that there were several other events (including a special lecture by Alan Dershowitz) going on at the same time. The Ames Courtroom was a great venue for it; it is one of those grand spaces that inspires great ideas.

After the panel, Brian Harrison and Ashley Stebbins (who have been working on this with me for weeks) joined me in a meeting with HLS faculty to discuss future collaboration of the commutation project, and that went very well. We then went to a lecture by Greg Craig, former White House Counsel, which I found simply fascinating. The lecture was actually more of an interview conducted by Prof. Charles Ogletree, who has long been a seminal figure in many of the areas I care about.

The evening debate was fabulous. I went first and last, arguing both sides of the proposition, and many others argued between those two poles. Virtually every seat in Pound 108 was filled, which added to the atmosphere-- a packed room always makes things better. Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute and Jennifer Stitt of FAMM stayed for that debate, and got to see the passion that many people have for this topic.

I was most impressed at the evening debate by James Nortey, a Baylor College grad who is now a student at Harvard Law. James' argument was coherent, compelling, and eloquent. Intriguingly, he incorporated the three aspects of Aristotilian rhetoric (ethos, logos, pathos) we teach in Oral Advocacy. For example, he started with a very simple statement of ethose-- "I'm a pragmatist; if I wasn't, I couldn't be a member of both the NAACP and the Federalist Society""-- and that framed the rest of his argument. James is going to make a wonderful lawyer.

This morning we head back to Baylor, and the experience makes me all the more eager to get back to my own students.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Today on the Charles, Tomorrow the Brazos!

I got up early this morning and went for a run along the Charles River, which borders the Harvard campus. Crew teams were out practicing, which brought back memories of a trip in law school to see the Head of the Charles races here-- which turned out to be a great day for midwestern pride.

I happened to be near where the boats were being launched for the heavyweight eight crews-- the big guys. The Navy team did so with great precision, and then Harvard came along with a beautiful, pristine boat (which I think was called the "Thurston Howell III"). Finally, the University of Wisconsin tried to launch their boat. For some reason, they had it wedged into the back of an extended-bed pickup truck, and it slid out awkwardly and straight into the water. There was a lot of yelling, and a couple of big cheddarheads had to jump into the river to retrieve it.

They then kicked some Ivy League butt and won the race.

After my run, I stopped into the Starbucks in Harvard Square. Waiting in line, the older man in front of me turned around and greeted me:

Older Guy: So, you're back!
Me (baffled at who this is): Yup!
Older Guy: How'd that happen?
Me: I guess I did ok last time...
Older Guy: Ha ha ha!

I'm not quite sure what to make of that. Maybe he was at the lecture last November, but I'm thinking it's much more likely he was mistaking me for someone else... and I'm not sure I want to know who that is.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Back to Boston

Today, I'm on my way back to Harvard Law School for two events on Tuesday.

You might remember that I spoke out there this past November on the subject of federal drug policy, particularly as it applies to crack cocaine. At the end of that talk, I suggested that the Harvard NAACP and Federalist Society join forces for an examination of the problem (after all, the issue directly implicates both race and federalism).

They took up the idea, and I am headed back to moderate the panel that will convene tomorrow at noon in the Ames Courtroom. The panelists include Ronald Sullivan, a Harvard Professor; Tim Lynch, an expert from the Cato Institute; and Jennifer Stitt, a legislative specialist from Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In the evening, we are also having an informal colloquium on the issue, where students and faculty can speak for or against the proposition "Resolved: The Federal Government Should Stay Out of Drug Policy."

I'll report from the field once I am there.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Easter Reflection: Jesus among us

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

I have a friend who who will be camping out with family this Easter morning. That seemed an odd tradition to me, until late this week.

This past Thursday, my church did our annual "Easter Walk," where the children of the church are led through the recesses of the building to encounter various parishioners playing the roles of people who encountered Jesus during holy week (and beyond). I was asked to play the role of Peter. Specifically, I was Peter after Easter (John 21). He and the others went fishing in the Sea of Tiberius, and caught nothing, until a stranger on the shore yelled to them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. They did so, caught a net full of fish, and headed to shore. As they got close to shore, it became clear that the stranger on the shore was the risen Christ.

When they got to shore, here is what Jesus said to them: "Come and have breakfast."

So they sat by the shore and cooked up the fish.

That's what they did-- exactly that. They simply had breakfast together by the shore. There is something so profoundly familiar about that, so real and true... so knowable and yet moving. I love the image of that, them by the fire, cooking the fish, this incredible miracle of resurrection melding seamlessly into what is a part of us all.

Isn't that how Christ comes to so many of us? Not on billowing clouds or with a booming voice, but a quiet voice of comfort, of challenge, a voice amidst tragedy that tells us simply to come and eat, and be who we should really be.

Saturday, April 03, 2010



I think I am still somewhat in denial about this move. There is a lot to do, and I'm not quite doing it yet.

Part of the stall, probably, is that it is sinking in about how many people here I will truly miss. Texas has been very kind to me, and from this community and my students I have received more kindness than I deserved.

This week, I conducted the storytelling exercises for Oral Advocacy. They were excellent-- I couldn't have been more impressed, and I learned something from each presentation. Will King was the bravest (telling about the dark side of Mother Theresa), but so many others obviously worked very hard to get just the right story told in a way that conveyed deep meaning.

If I say that I love my students, that's what I love-- their hard work, the fact that they teach me, and that they trust me to teach them. It's a deep and meaningful and sometimes fragile relationship, and we cannot treat it as anything other than that.


Middle School Honesty

I'd like to recommend this post, written by a 13-year-old.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Good Friday/Found Crosses

I found these today at the burned-out Sanger Ave. school here in Waco:

[click on the photos to enlarge them]

Previous years:



Haiku Friday-- the 80's

I'm not sure why, but I'm going through kind of an MC Hammer obsession at the moment. But who hasn't? If you see me in a pair of Hammer pants next week, don't be surprised.

This week's haiku will use the last line "It was the Eighties." Just patch together a first line of five syllables and a second line of seven syllables, and you have a haiku!

Here is mine:

In the Reagan days
Every time was Hammer Time!
It was the Eighties.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Big Verdict!

Snickers bad.

Meanwhile, both Google and at least one of my friends have gotten weird again.


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Social Security Bill

Now that we have dealt with health care, it appears that Congress has turned its sights on Social Security. The proposed overhaul there would do the following:

1) The retirement age would gradually be increased to 81, though this would not come fully into effect until 2051. This is consistent with health statistics.

2) The cost of the bill would be covered with a federal surcharge on non-nutritional food items (gum, soda, processed cheese food, beer, kibble, etc.).

3) Citizens would be able to "invest" their social security money in a limited number of funds, primarily those that promote health and the environment.

4) Payment from the Social Security fund would be based not only on input and age at retirement, but also on a number of health wellness factors, such as not smoking, avoiding traffic accidents, regular exercise, and abstention from alcohol.

While I suspect that Death Panels are not a part of the proposal, we will be hearing about those again...

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