Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Just up at the Huffington Post...

... is this piece on the Oregon Governor. It's a different take than my previous op-ed on the topic, which appeared on For the moment, it is the top "featured post" on the religion page.

I think it's a fascinating story... please post it on facebook or something if you like it. If you don't I will send Clippy over to your house, and he will bug you constantly, saying "It looks like you are trying to ignore Mark Osler! Would you like some help?"


On Writing and more

Sometimes, I am a writer. It's funny, in a way-- when I was a kid, I always wanted to be a writer and see my words in newspapers and books. Then I fell in love with the law (I really did), and it felt like stepping away from that dream.

But, who knew? The vocation of law actually was thrusting me into a world defined by language, by writing and speaking and advocating for (if you are lucky, and I am) those things that are closest to your heart. I get to do exactly that. I write articles and stories and a book; I send them off and people (sometimes) take them as worthwhile, all of which still holds great magic and wonder for me. I'm still surprised when I see my name, or read my own words.

But... I get to be a teacher above that. My first discipline is to my students (though I realize that this prioritization may fly in the face of convention in some parts of the academy). I love that feeling of looking out at my students, or (as happened yesterday) having what they called "hang-out class" which revolves around a review of their work. I'm a lucky man.

Beyond that, I get to advocate for what I believe in. Tomorrow, I will fly to DC for a second meeting with a group in the Department of Justice, who may adopt an idea I have been promoting. (vagueness intentional, for now). Then, I will travel to Richmond to give the Sunday sermon at a very special place, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church on Monument Avenue.

And then, the Spring... here is what is coming up then:

January 15—Trial of Christ, Fourth Presbyterian, Chicago, 12:30 pm.

February 7—Trial of Christ, Episcopal Divinity School/Harvard, 7 PM

February 15-- Mid-Day dialogue with Susan Stabile, on the topic of "Faith and Works" (I am for them; Susan is against them)

February 24—Death Penalty presentation, Belmont University, Nashville [Feat. Todd Lake, pictured above]

February 25—resentation to Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty conference, Nashville

February 26—presentation at St. Henry’s Catholic Church, Nashville

February 27—Trial of Christ, Carson-Newman College, Jeffersonville, TN

March 18—Trial of Christ, St. Henry’s Catholic Church, Nashville

April 5 (Maundy Thursday)—Trial of Christ, Crossings Community Church, Oklahoma City, OK

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


May I recommend...

Megan Willome's Blog, Sabbath Says, is chock-full of good stuff, including non-haiku poetry. Because Megan is a great writer, it is probably not surprising that she has a great blog. I met Megan when she wrote an overly-kind (but wonderful) profile in the Wacoan Magazine a few years ago-- a profile which also resulted in the worst modeling performance ever (cue banjo music):

Monday, November 28, 2011


Our winner: S!

Blogging was a little light this week due to the holiday, but we still got some great haikus. In a close second was this gem from Seraphim (and believe me I would love to write a bio for that...):

Breakfast of the gods:
turkey, bread, lettuce, mayo
(then cold pumpkin pie)

Our winner, though, was "S," who wrote this masterpiece:

Pie, pie, glorious
PIE. Refuse you? Oh, but why?
Hot or cold, still pie.

And now, the Story of S:

In an age when women were not accepted as college football players, S defied convention. Pushing her long hair up into her helmet and then refusing to take the helmet off until she was back home was a sufficient disguise, as her ferocious demeanor on the field hid her public identity as an intellectual and a thespian. While her university (Texas A & M) was not exactly known for great football, she helped them overcome several Division III and high school opponents. Her position, eighthback, required her to position herself between the center and the quarterback, and then leap onto the opposing defensive players while striking them on the head with a variety of concealed objects. She was outstanding at this particular task, and received a full scholarship after her freshman year. As a senior, she was not only a starter, but was coaching the team, all while refusing to take off her helmet.

After college she was unable to catch on with a professional football team, and instead played for three years with the Detroit Lions. A fractured tibia ended her career, and she then was able to focus her full attention on the firearms store she still maintains just outside of Sioux Pines, South Dakota. Congratulations to S!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Sunday Reflection: My Secret Desire

I'm hoping that a prurient title will pull people in today!

Some of you, no doubt, expect me to expound on my desire to someday be the Pointer of Interest in the Grosse Pointe News, but let's face it-- that desire has never been very secret. Every week, they have talked about someone, for the over 2200 weeks that have passed since I moved to Grosse Pointe as a kid, but I have never made the cut. Meanwhile, dead people, vagrants, even a dog (it was a pointer, duh) have been profiled, but not me. What's a guy gotta do?

Anyways, that's not my secret desire. My real secret desire is to make the bread for the eucharist during advent. I can't fully explain why this is. Part of it, no doubt, is based on my deep connection to that wonderful and ancient process of making bread... there is an intimacy to it, really, because the bread is a living thing (at least leavened bread, using yeast, is). It responds to your touch like a lover, based on mood and temperature and place, and there is this wonderful mix of physicality and patience that is required. You work on it hard, with your knuckles and the heels of your hands, and then you wait... and if you don't wait, your efforts are for nothing. It sits there, building up, under a cloth on the counter (can you see it?). And then, in the end, there is a miracle. I remember once describing this to Craig Pankratz, and he nodded either knowingly or obligingly, but it felt good to talk about.

Next week I am giving an advent sermon at Holy Comforter in Richmond, Virginia. I won't get to make the bread, but the sermon has to be made the same way, with kneading and patience and hopefully a sense of wonder at what comes out, only partly made by me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


New Stuff on the Webs!

My short piece on the Oregon Governor's decision to issue a moratorium on the death penalty is up now at, at the top of the opinion page. Also, you can hear the interview I did earlier this week with a Michigan radio station (on the topic of juvenile life without parole) now-- part one is here, and part two is here.

Both were great opportunities to speak out on some remarkable developments in sentencing law-- I really do believe that if we academics want to influence policy, we have to speak to people outside of the academy about the things we care about. If that means taking some insults in the comments sections... I'm ok with that.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Haiku Friday: Leftovers!

There are a lot of traditions around Thanksgiving-- turkey, Lions' football, Kitchen Dancing-- but none more prevalent than the tradition of fabulous leftovers. Let's haiku on that today. Here is mine:

One gross leftover:
Icky, gooey, cranberries.
Autumn's toxic goo.

Now it is your turn! Just make it 5 syllables for the first line, 7 for the second, and 5 for the third. The winner gets a bio here on Monday!

Write! (Please).

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving from IPLawGuy and Pickles the Cat!

Happy Thanksgiving!
by: oslerguy


Turkey Mayhem Thursday: Best Turkey Ever!

I've found that the best Thanksgiving turkey you can get is one that has been brined. Here is a good recipe from

The real trick with brining is finding a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, an upended Volkswagen, a hockey bag, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won't reach foods below). If you have refrigerator magnets, place these magnet-side-up on the bottom of the container.

The basic ratio for turkey brine is two cups of kosher salt to two gallons of water. Some recipes include sweeteners or acidic ingredients to balance the saltiness. In some areas of Arkansas, the components of meth are added to the mix to provide an extra "kick," to often-tragic results.

Dissolve salt (and sugar, if using) in two cups of hot water. Stir in remaining gallon plus 3 ½ quarts of cold water.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey.
At this point, give your turkey a name and refer to it by that name thereafter.
Immerse turkey in brine and refrigerate for at least eight hours but no longer than 24 hours.

When you're ready to roast, pour off the brine. Rinse the turkey well with cool tap water, and pat dry with paper towels.

Tuck the wing tips behind the back and place the bird, breast-side up, on a roasting rack.

Proceed with your preferred recipe, but remember that the turkey has already absorbed a significant amount of salt--any drippings that you use for gravy will already be salty, and no salt should be added to compound butters or spice rubs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Black Thursday

The day before Thanksgiving is a special day to me-- it has always been a day of quiet surprises. Someone will reappear, or appear for the first time, or I will learn something new and whole and good. It is the heart of my favorite time of year. As a kid, it seemed like every year there would be a knock at the door on this day, and someone interesting would be on the other side.

Much as a I love the day before Thanksgiving, I have come to loath the day after-- Black Friday. Now retailers have pushed up their opening times until they encroach on the holiday itself, and there is something profoundly sad about that. The worst part of Christmas seems to eat up more and more of what I value; or would if I let it.

The most depressing part of all, but something I watch in the same way I watch a NASCAR wreck, is news interviews of people in line for Black Friday sales, or in the midst of the shopping itself. They always seem to be bleary-eyed and slightly angry, and when asked about the crowds they shrug and say something along the lines of "that's the way it is."

I will not be competing this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Practicality and legal education

[This is cross-posted at Law School Innovation]

On Sunday, several people forwarded to me this fascinating article from the New York Times. The critique of law schools presented there cuts to several truths: That too much of our scholarship has no impact on anything (and goes largely unread), that we are not student-centered enough, and that we in the legal academy are often more focused on impressing one another rather than addressing real problems in our society.

One of the intriguing criticisms in the article centers on the increasing trend toward hiring professors who have a Ph.D., but no legal experience. I think this is a fair critique, and one which merits close examination as we keep in mind our status as a professional rather than a graduate school; My own scholarship is almost always narrowly focused on a discrete issue in the real world, and that is intentional-- I don't want to waste my time on things that don't have a chance to solve a problem. For the same reason, most of the classes I teach consist largely of practical teaching for the real world: How to write a sentencing memo, for example, or what happens at an initial appearance behind the scenes.  My most recent entry on SSRN argues in favor of more experiential teaching.

Still, we must be discerning in that critique of Ph.D.'s in our midst. It's unfair to assume that all Ph.D.'s in the legal academy produce work which is disjoined from real-world legal issues. In pondering this, I remember that my own experience overlaps with the very start of this trend. I was a research assistant for the late Stanton Wheeler at Yale Law School, at a time when Prof. Wheeler was still a controversial figure because his background (and Ph.D.) centered on sociology rather than the law.

Given that, though, there were few legal academics I have come across who are more focused on real-world legal problems than Prof. Wheeler.  This probably is no accident, as his tenure overlapped with the last of the Legal Realists at Yale. For example, he is largely remembered for his pioneering book with Kenneth Mann and Austin Sarat, Sitting in Judgment: The Sentencing of White-Collar Criminals. That book was centered on 51 in-depth interviews with federal judges; Wheeler went right to the source in describing how the law actually works.

Rather than critiquing Ph.D.'s in the academy, we need to look more closely at the scholarship all legal scholars are producing, and rethink the way we value that work. Stanton Wheeler was not a lawyer, but few of us produce such valuable and relevant scholarship, or teach such clear-minded truths.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Our winner: OsoGrande!

Despite my confusion as to the days of the week and a fairly limited topic, there were some great haikus last week! Here, though, is our winner, from OsoGrande:

No one hits a tree.
Until he does, and then he
is just cartoonish.

What I love is the essential truth of it-- that skiing accidents are just cartoonish at the same time that they are terrifying and dangerous. That's why people loved the start of the "Wide World of Sports"-- there is something about that ski wipeout that just is funny and awful all at once.

Herewith, a bio of OsoGrande:

OsoGrande was born on July 21, 1846 in Vernon, Texas, and was raised in what was then called Sam Antonio (named after its founder, Sam Antonio). After graduating from high school, he attended Washington and Lee University (where his instructors included Robert E. Lee) and Brown Normal School (which later became Brown "University"). He then received a law degree from Duke University, Immediately after law school, he was named to the Court of Appeals for the Northwest Territories, a job he left after an unfortunate bear attack/financial reversal. Unbeknownst to him, the bear which attacked him was radioactive, and transferred certain powers to him in the course of the assault. For example, after the attack, he found that he could survive on two hours of sleep a night, and locate edible berries and salmon with ease.

Returning to Washington, D.C. from the Territories, Oso received a position as Solicitor General. At that time, the job involved selling American products door-to-door in other countries, and he tackled the task with gusto. Soon, American blackpowder, horseshoes, berries, ambergris, salmon, and chaps were the toast of Europe, and the American economy flourished.

After leaving that post, Oso was a partner at the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis for 117 years, until taking a position at Baylor. While there, he has revitalized morale, secretly coached the football team to several unexpected victories while wearing the disguise of long sleeves, and improved the dining options at Brooks College.

Huzzahs, OsoGrande!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Sunday Reflection: The cloud of saints

This week, I had the honor of participating in a second public discussion with Susan Stabile on our respective faith traditions. Last time, we discussed creeds, and this time we talked about intercession-- that is, the practice of Catholics and some others to call upon the saints to intercede for them with God.

I'd encourage you to listen to the podcast, which is available here. You can see Susan's reflection on it here, and some astute comments by one of our students, David Best, here.

I have never sought the intercession of saints, for the reasons I described in the podcast.

However, I have felt the presence of them. Perhaps not in the Catholic sense; the process of canonization does not hold magic for me. But still, in the sense that I know that there are heroes near, I have felt that.

I wrote about one such night about one year ago. I had given a talk in Chicago, and just that week the illinois legislature had voted to get rid of the death penalty in that state. Here is part of what I wrote then:

My parents and my sister Kathy came for the presentation, and afterwards the Jenkins sisters invited us to a party to celebrate on the 78th floor of the Hancock Building. Their organization, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, played an important role in lobbying for the change (the president, Vicki Scheiber, was celebrated on Saturday as “abolitionist of the year”), so they had good reason to pop the champagne. My family and I were welcomed warmly and richly enjoyed the celebration, but there was also something running very deep in that room. There was no mistaking the depth of commitment of the people there-- many (if not most) had lost a family member to murder, and had then come out against the death penalty, an incredible act of grace that is now successfully challenging the very institution of capital punishment. As Jeanne put it in addressing that group, there was a cloud of saints in that room—those who had been killed through heartless violence, and who had nonetheless been remembered with an act of love and courage. It was a palpable presence, and there was a mood of true joy that filled the room.

As I left the party and walked next to my father and mother down the broad sidewalks of Michigan Avenue into the night, I realized there had only been one mistake in what had been said—the saints in that lovely apartment in the sky were not only those who perished, but those who survived, who had acted from love with such stunning results.

Those saints surround us, whether we seek intercession or not.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Help! Angry Michiganders...

Over the weekend, an op-ed I wrote is appearing in six Michigan newspapers. You can read it here. It is part of a series on Juvenile life without parole, a sentence that has become both frequently used (relative to other states) and controversial in Michigan.

Check out the comments-- typical of them is the one currently on top, which asserts that "Once a killer always a killer." I'm baffled by such certainty, which is exactly what I am questioning in the article. If you have time, please read the article, make a comment, or post it to Facebook.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday(ish): Football!

Today's insight comes from one of our most insightful commenters, the Waco Farmer:

I have been thinking about the Penn St. scandal.  I soured on football long ago--but chunking football entirely, as I have advocated vehemently for years, is a principled thing to do with some very complicated ramifications.  Football I am convinced is corrosive to culture (at this point at almost every level of play: too much emphasis in high school, buying uniforms instead of school books, distraction on college campuses, an orgy of self indulgence on the professional level, etc.).  But you shut down Penn St. football and the ripples start rolling across the local economies--even to the point where the college itself is vulnerable.  The old quote from some college president (maybe a Big Tenner): to run a successful university you need to make sure there is sex for the undergrads, parking for the faculty, and football for the alumni.  Is football the price we pay to keep colleges open and interesting to the masses?  Is the party one can expect at college the lure to get kids there to learn a little bit?  Lou Holtz said that other day that there is never a good time to do the wrong thing and never a wrong time to do the right thing, but is that just too naive?  Can we sell our souls to the gods of football so we can run colleges where some folks in the history department may be able to do some good?  Is that an acceptable tradeoff?  If not, are we willing to run a college on the cheap and pay history profs next to nothing and do it all for the students who are willing to come and study and learn discipline?  We did it that way for years and it meant that college was for a very select few and college teachers did not live like aristocrats.  Are we willing to go back to the lean times?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Haiku Friday: Skiing!

American Analog Set music video from Jason Drakeford on Vimeo.

[Ed. Note: It has been called to my attention that I have posted Haiku Friday on Thursday. This occurred because last night I was under the mistaken understanding that the day which followed Wednesday was, in fact, Friday. It appears that I was mistaken. To prevent such errors in the future, I have found a catchy pop song which covers in detail the progression of the days of the week, and the location of Friday within that progression. You can hear that song here. Please feel free to haiku about that song, or about how confused I am. Political Mayhem Thursday will appear tomorrow. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience.]

Now that it is dipping below freezing, I am obsessed with skiing. I am longing for it. Deep, deep longing.

I realize that it is a very narrow haiku topic, so feel free to do anything related to snow, your fear of winter, the biathlon, whatever.

Here is mine:

It is all rhythm
Music of the body, and
If you're lucky, joy.

Now it is your turn. Just make it 5 syllables/7/5, and if you win, you get your bio here on Monday! Now write!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Coming right up! (if you live in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint, Saginaw, or Bay City)

Michigan is considering a revamp of juvenile sentencing, and the Booth newspapers in Michigan will be running an op-ed I wrote on the subject. Though I doubt many of you subscribe to these papers, it will be running in the Muskegon Chronicle on Friday, the Grand Rapids Press on Saturday, and the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Flint Journal, the Saginaw News, and the Bay City Times on Sunday.

So, quick, move to Bay City! Or, in the alternative, I will post a link here on Friday. Because... every day I'm shufflin'.


Just in time for Christmas!!!!

I have always loved awful Chinese-made toys, and I never thought I would find something to rival Conveyance Good Hand, the racing fuel-hauler... at least without going back to El Paso, which seems to be the world market for such things.

However, two days ago I made a wonderful discovery right here in Edina-- a toy of such bizarre construction and packaging with such strained use of the English language that it was like a virtual trip back to the border. Now, for your shopping pleasure, I present the $1.49 "City Angel":

Among the English-ish claims on the box:

"Vivid andgreat [sic] in style handsome appearance"
"Many colr [sic] a lot, chosen freely by you"
"Chariots without rival"
"Design is not stand for original product"

This last warning sounds like it has some kind of meaning, but... what?

As one might expect, the instructions are not much help. Note that they begin with step 1, in which most of the vehicle has been built by some unseen hand:

Should you make it through the instructions, you get the finished product:

I get the kinda-police-car-looking-thing, but what is the other thing? It looks like it might be part of a chemical plant.

The question is... who wants it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Woo hoo!

Today, I received this pithy note from academic database SSRN about the paper I presented at Baylor a few weeks ago:

Your paper, "WISDOM NOT MY OWN: RULES, PRINCIPLES, AND THE TEACHING OF LAW", was recently listed on SSRN's Top Ten download list for Legal Education eJournal.

If you'd like to read this strangely popular piece, you can download it here.


A new blog!

I had a great talk with one of my students this morning, and she tossed me a link to her excellent blog, Angle KKG. I especially enjoyed the way that this post described our school...


All Right! Conspiracy!

As Razorites well know, I am a total fan of Andrew WK. Like Rush Limbaugh (properly viewed) he is a mix of enthusiasm and self-parody. What's not to love? The guy not only is able to predict the weather, but he makes videos with simplistic lyrics and wonderful touches, like making a smoothie for himself at about 2:03 of this video:

Intriguingly, it appears that Andrew W.K. is a little... well, manufactured. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and some others may have created the character and (eventually) hired an actor to play him. Consider this evidence (taken from that they hired a new actor to be Andrew W.K. in about 2005 (and, I have to say, the pre-2005 guy looks suspiciously like Dave Grohl):

My favorite part of the whole thing? The supposed mastermind behind the whole thing is James E. Krier, a property law professor at the University of Michigan. Really, dude? You are the coolest property law professor ever.

Excuse me now... I have to go work on a new project.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Our winner, and a tribute to Nigel Tufnel

It's hard to dispute our haiku champion on friday: It must be "Welle," who authored this incredibly timely haiku:

Showing instruments,
This one goes to eleven?
Exquisite logic.

Now why, you ask, might this be so timely? Friday, of course was 11/11/11, or Nigel Tufnel day in honor of the scene included above. Spinal Tap, after all, is my favorite movie. Recent winner Phil Steger also wrote on the topic:

"Just make ten louder."
Hard rock Buddha says: "But these
Go to eleven."

So, just who is this "Welle?" Let's find out.

Welle was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the home of the Mayo Clinic and myriad medical enterprises. Like many children in Rochester, he was designed, built, brought to life, and trained in a secret government lab which develops cyborgs. Though others were developed for fascinating uses by government agencies such as the Department of Energy (immune to radiation), NASA (able to live in zero oxygen environments), and the Department of Defense (sound cannons installed in larynx), Welle was part of a project commissioned by Amtrak. He was given the secret powers of determining when a train would arrive, and creating excuses for its tardiness. He was also given lasers at the tip of each finger (for reading bar codes on tickets, etc.), but they only extend one inch from his hand and are unable to cut through anything.

Though briefly lent to the Postal Service in exchange for some stamps Amtrak needed, Welle was quickly decommissioned and left to his own devices. He chose to pursue engineering, and his undergraduate thesis (on the feasibility of returning to coal-burning locomotives) won the Burlington Northern Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. He used his prize money to fund the continuation of his education in law school, where he remains today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Take me to the river...

Last weekend's service at St. Stephens, which included the baptism of Benjamin Neil Willard, was one of my all-time favorites. I loved the spirit of it, and the message. Ben, of course, did his part, with a look of slightly puzzled contentment as the water was poured over him as he sat in the baptismal font.

I have been baptized twice. I was baptized as an infant. Then, when I was 16, I went through the confirmation process at my Congregational church. As I studied the Bible in preparation for my confirmation, I became convinced that what I really wanted was a believer's baptism, by immersion. Eventually, I approached the leadership of the church and asked for exactly that.

As one might expect, they were baffled by the request at first. No one had ever done that in the church, and they had no equipment for it, or knowledge of how to do it. To their credit, though, the Ministers (Roy Hutcheon and Jack Skiles) found a way for me to do it. They asked a Baptist church to do it, and studied up on the process. On the appointed day, I left in the middle of a softball game (my school newspaper staff v. our rivals from Grosse Pointe South) and was baptized again.

It was an overwhelming and moving experience. With it came a calm and quiet I have held ever since. It was, as much as anything, a washing of sorts, a bathing, the removal of all that the world might put on me that covers my true and real self, one form of God's creation.

As I washed the water pour over the infant, Ben Willard, I remembered that day. The feeling, though, I did not have to remember, because it has carried with me ever since. I too often ignore it, or obscure it, but it is always there, God's offer to cleanse me and heal me, and with that comes wholeness, and joy, and the feeling of calm we long for in storms.

Saturday, November 12, 2011



Come hear me speak about Jesus on Death Row at Colonial Church in Edina! Details here.


A song for our times

Friday, November 11, 2011


Haiku Friday: Best Movie Scenes

I love that parade scene! It's get everything I love in a movie-- Chicago, dancing frauleins, school hijinks, and music.

So, let's haiku about favorite movie scenes-- it can be any type of movie.

Here is mine:

Which one am I now-
Ferris Bueller or his dad?
[I hope] some of each.

Now it is your turn... just make it roughly five syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five for the third. This week's prize: Your bio here on Monday! So-- haiku!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday II: Yelling nonsense at his constituents

I'm fascinated by this video of Republican Rep. Joe Walsch of Illinois screaming at his constituents. First of all, he seems like the least reasonable person in the room. Second, he just seems so wrong. He keeps screaming that government created the 2008 recession, not the banks. Huh?

Government did play a role in the banking crisis-- by deregulating them. President Bush did push for more homeownership (like Clinton before him), but tried to achieve this by removing regulations on banks and other lenders. I'm confused as to how this leads Rep. Crazypants to conclude so vociferously that regulation is bad.

One thing is certain: He is very, very mad.


Political Mayhem Thursday: National Service!

When I was a senior in high school I got to go to Washington to meet my Congressman, Dennis Hertel. I don't remember why, exactly-- I might have been in an essay contest or something. I loved the trip, and remember our meeting very well.

He actually wanted me to talk to him about an issue, and one I had a vested interest in. At the time, he was considering a plan to require a year of national service of everyone at or around age 18. You could be in the army, work in the parks, build sidewalks-- they would send you to some other part of the country to do it. Of course, since I would be involved the next year, I would have a vested interest.

I thought it was a great idea, and told him that. I still think it would be a great idea. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Just up at CNN...

Is this short piece of mine about the Hank Skinner case.


Looking for new music...

I'm low. Help me out! I need suggestions.

Meanwhile, so you have an idea of what I like, here are a few songs I have featured here in the past.

1) Soft Pack, Answer to Yourself/Just rocks. Even IPLawGuy probably likes this.

2) The Breeders, Cannonball/Great stops, and reminds me of nearly everyone I know well-- bunch of cannonballs, y'all. Plus, they let Mark Cuban play drums.

3) JayMay, Blue or Gray/I love the pace and lyrics-- she lost her guitar, so she has to play xylophone.

4) Lisa Hanigan, I Don't Know/Just irresistible

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Coming up in Edina...

For the next two Sundays (November 13 and 20), I will be presenting a short series on "Jesus on Death Row" at Colonial Church here in Edina-- more information here.


Brandenburg Concerto # 3

I love seeing my favorites done in a new way...


A big day in the law...

Yesterday was pretty exciting if you share exactly my interests, which it true of about three people worldwide. There were two exciting developments:

1) The Supreme Court granted certiorari and agreed to hear argument in two cases challenging the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole. Both cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, involve children who committed murder at age 14. The court has previously ruled that life without parole for juvenile offenders is unconstitutional if the crime is less than murder; the question in these cases will be whether or not that rule will be extended to murderers. My own take on this is that the cases are a battle for the heart and mind of Justice Kennedy, who will be a swing vote in an eventual 5-4 decision one way or the other.

2) Texas inmate Hank Skinner, scheduled for execution on Wednesday despite a pending federal case regarding untested DNA samples that might exculpate him, received a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Appeals.

Monday, November 07, 2011


We have a winner!

And it is none other than Phil Steger, for this plaintive haiku:

Skinny generals
Slug Mountain Dew before they
Invade Kamchatka!

I like the evocative part of it... and the fact that it is a poem about the game of Risk that never mentions the name of the game.

Phil himself, of course, contributed a worthwhile commentary on Occupy Wall Street just a few weeks ago-- it must have been good, since my dad called to say so! (That is, he called me, not Phil, at least as far as I know).

Here is Phil's story:

Phil Steger was born in a Volkswagen van headed from Berkeley to Guadalajara, the child of a beat poet and a well-known novelist. They intended to name him after their favorite singer, Pete Seeger, but it was hard to write clearly in the moving van and... well, you can connect the dots.

Phil's childhood was a fascinating pastiche of experiences, and he attended a total of five schools from grades 1-7: The Dandelion School in Cambridge, Mass., the Happy LoLo Academy in San Diego, the Monty-sorri School (run by Mony Hall) in Hollywood, California, the Abingdon Friends School, and a charter school identified only as "School" in an unincorporated part of Humboldt County, California. He got fine grades at each stop and in his 4 years at Beverly Hills High, and enrolled at UCLA. While there, he worked as an actor on a series of sit-coms, including "That 70's Show," and "The Danny Bonaduce Show."

Eventually, Phil tired of the glamour and glitz, and decamped for theological training at a seminary which refuses to release his personal information or even its own name. Having received an M.Div., he opened a church outside Austin, MN, which catered to SPAM workers (the meat, not the internet miscreants). While continuing his work at that church, he now is attending law school at St. Thomas where he is well-known for his quick wit, his unusual insights, and his well-preserved VW van.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Technology

Yesterday, someone hacked by iTunes account. Before I could change the password, they purchased $107 worth of apps for "Future Combat: Patriots at War." Grrrr.

Worse, Apple was no help at all. I clicked on "Report a problem" on the receipt, which took me to another screen where I again clicked "report a problem," which then sent me back to the welcome page. So, I called Apple, and the person on the other end said that not only could she not help me, but that "no one could." There was something very grim-sounding about that...

The whole thing left me wholly dispirited, in a literal sense-- I felt lacking in spirit, in connectedness. Technology can be both freeing and imprisoning. I was frustrated at Apple more than anything, because they had built a wall between me and any way of redressing the problem, or even reporting it.

Our reliance on technology leaves us all prone to that dispiriting moment. I read the gospel, and Jesus was always around people, and touch was important-- a person could be healed through just touching his robe.

Perhaps this is a message to me... a message to curb my enthusiasm for things with screens, and go back more to things with eyes and hands and hearts.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Coming up this month!

I am really looking forward to this public discussion on intercession with Susan Stabile. It will be 12:30 on Wednesday at the school of law, room 242. Our discussion last year on creeds was a blast-- you can hear the podcast here.

There are a lot of things I love about UST, and the friendship and challenge of Susan Stabile is one of the most important. I think it's great that we have these discussions about faith in our offices, and then open it up to the whole community-- it's a part of that "whole teaching" that I have always desired.

If you haven't done so, I would urge you to check out Susan's blog, Creo en Dios (which is Latin for "Cut on the Bias"-- some kind of fashion reference).

Friday, November 04, 2011


Haiku Friday: Ping Pong!

Today I am participating in the St. Thomas Ping Pong Smackdown, a four week ordeal of grueling matches which extend for days.

My first round opponent is, oddly, razorite and last week's haiku champion, S. I'm not sure how that happened, but it's good news for her because I am really bad at ping-pong. I also don't have any idea when or where we are playing, so it may be even easier than she thinks.

So, let's haiku about ping pong and any other basement-type games you like-- pool, air hockey, Ms. Pac Man, whatever. Here is mine:

Let go of the paddle
It flew, fast and true, into
Into Tom Brooke's head.

Now it is your turn. If your 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable poem is judged superior to all others, you will win your more-or-less accurate biography here on Monday! Now do it!

Thursday, November 03, 2011


An old favorite song...


Political Mayhem Thursday: Herman Cain!

Can I just say-- Herman Cain would be the worst President ever, but this ad totally wowed me. There is something wonderfully transgressive about the smoking at the end... and I am tired of timidity. Sure, I have no idea what the point is there-- maybe it's about freedom? That would be good.

Nearly anything worthwhile transgresses society's norms in some way. Transgression is a step on the way to reform of stale and outgrown parts of our culture; it can be the razor that splits habit from tradition.

Meanwhile, Herman Cain is otherwise a complete train wreck. His 9-9-9 plan would raise taxes for many or even most people (aren't Republicans supposed to be against raising taxes?). He mishandled and appeared to fudge answers related to old charges that he sexually harassed his employees. He accidentally said that the choice of abortion is up to the woman involved, before hearing the objections of horrified conservatives. He seems to be stumbling from one disaster to the next, dragging various conservative figures along like a drunk sorority girl leading a pack of besotted boys out of a bar. This week, it was all about race, with figures like Ann Coulter claiming that "our blacks are more impressive than their blacks," among other things.

What happens next to Herman Cain?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Help me and my beloved Miata...

So... I'm looking for a place to park my beloved and long-suffering Miata for the winter. Any ideas? Feel free to email me at if you have a genuine idea. Sarcastic remarks can go in the comment section below.


Randy Potts explains...

Over the past few weeks I have gotten to know Randy Potts and admire his work. He wrote to me when he was coming to Minnesota last week, and we met for an afternoon to discuss our various projects. He speaks with real grace about the family that has largely rejected him, and that is a very difficult thing to do. If you don't know his story, it is explained here:


Wisdom not my own

Wisdom is a tough topic. True wisdom is rooted in humility and sacrifice, but discussing it tends to make us sound arrogant and selfish if we start from the premise that we have it and others don't.

I think, though, that looking for wisdom in professors is the wrong (and often a fruitless) task-- instead, we should be teaching our students to be wise in choosing and pursuing their vocation.

I'm convinced that the secret to teaching towards wisdom is to allow students to work with principles (in addition to learning legal rules), because wisdom comes from the application of principles to the tough questions we all face. I try to do this in my own classes, through simulations and exercises, and in my new commutation clinic.

This goal is the topic of the paper I presented last week at Baylor. If you would like (and I hope you do), you can download the whole thing here (just click "one-click download" at the top of that screen).

I would love to hear your thoughts, as I look to revise this paper for publication.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Halloween report, 2011

When I lived in Waco, there were literally hundreds of kids coming to my door on Halloween. I'm not totally sure why, though I think the fact that I lived in a relatively affluent area (Castle Heights) with houses close together might have had something to do with it. I loved seeing all the costumes, and later on when high school students would come by, I had fun giving them things like soap and Vienna sausages.

In Edina,there are not nearly as many kids, but my neighbors are more generous-- one house was apparently giving out full cans of Mountain Dew. Really. Meanwhile, I gave out a mix of tattoos and Vasito Karla Dulces, which is some kind of tamarind/guava-flavored goo from Mexico that I found at the Midtown Global Marketplace.

What's your report? What were the best costumes you saw?

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