Texas now kowtows to conspiracy nuts

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has decided to placate the conspiracy nuts. From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered members of the Texas Military to monitor federal troops in an upcoming two-month training exercise planned for the Lone Star State.

Operation Jade Helm will bring the U.S. military’s most elite soldiers, including the Green Berets and Navy SEALS, to Texas for simulated special operations in a hostile territory. But plans for the exercise have roused fears in many Texans of a federal occupation.

In a letter to Major General Gerald Betty of the Texas State Guard, Abbott said his order was “to address concerns of Texas citizens.”

“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property right and civil liberties will not be infringed,” the governor wrote. “I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15.”

Lovely. Just the leadership we need in the Lone Star State. Did Alex Jones put Gov. Abbott up to this move?

I don’t dismiss the need for Texas state officials and other States to know when the armed forces conduct exercises within its borders. To that end, military officials briefed local law enforcement officials months ago regarding the operation. Gov. Abbott is grandstanding here to protect his right flank.



Getting out of the office more often

It never ceases to amaze me how much more productive I can be when I work outside of my office.

Today’s office: Latte on the Square

Today I have a deposition in La Grange. I decided to drive out a couple of hours early and bang out some work at a coffee bar across the street from a courthouse. Notwithstanding my post here, I’ve been able to accomplish much more work here than I accomplish at the office.

Here’s why I like working offsite: no phones interrupting me. I have fewer opportunities to goof off on the Internet (even with wi-fi). I have fewer questions to answer. I have fewer distractions with colleagues discussing last night’s Astros game. I don’t mind doing any of those things, but I’d prefer to limit my time doing them.

I’ve long thought about spending a couple of hours at Starbucks a few times a week. It makes sense to me as a means to reduce distractions. I’ll try it tomorrow morning during my “normal” office hours, when I have a motion that requires me to focus.

What do you do to limit distractions while working?

Rawk shows

I used to see a lot of rock concerts . Here’s a list of twenty-five of the more memorable ones. In rough chronological order:

  1. Tom Petty, 1991, Seattle Coliseum. This was the first live rock show I remember attending without my parents.
  2. Soundgarden 1991, Paramount Seattle. This show is the first one I attended where people moshed.
  3. Metallica 1992, Seattle Coliseum. This show: 
  4. Lollapalooza 1992, Kitsap County Fairgrounds. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, JAMC. Ice Cube performed “F— the Police” for thirty minutes after being delayed by US customs officials.
  5. Nirvana 1992, Seattle Coliseum. This show.
  6. Lollapalooza 1993, Portland Meadows. J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. played LOUD. Rage Against the Machine sang “Killing in the Name,” complete with hundreds of f-bombs. I suffered a terrible sunburn.
  7. Rev. Horton Heat, 1994, the Abyss (Houston). I’d been in college for about a month.
  8. Nine Inch Nails, the Houston Summit, Halloween 1994. Marilyn Manson opened. So many people dressed as The Crow.
  9. Grateful Dead, Seattle Memorial Stadium, 1995. Jerry Garcia’s last tour
  10. HORDE Festival, 1997, Portland Meadows, Neil Young w/Crazy Horse (and a brief solo set), Blues Traveler, Morphine
  11. Willie Nelson, 2000, the Astrodome, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,
  12. Radiohead, 2001, Houston/Woodlands. I was so surprised they made Kid A come alive.
  13. Old 97’s, 2001, the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. The Sunday before I took the bar exam.
  14. Beck, the Flaming Lips, 2002, Jones Hall, Houston.
  15. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, 2003, Numbers. Karen O was in her self-destructive phase as a performer. She was riveting. The Locusts opened. They sounded terrible.
  16. Coachella Festival 2004. Radiohead, the Pixies, the Flaming Lips, the Cure, Muse, lots of others.
  17. Judas Priest/Slayer, 2004, the Woodlands. We were in the sixth row, facing the stacks. Slayer’s kick drum stopped and restarted my heart, more than Motley Crue’s song ever did.
  18. Arcade Fire, 2005, Mary Jane’s (Houston). No room anywhere in that tiny dump of a club.
  19. Sigur Ros, 2006, Bayou Music Center . I met up with my future wife and other friends who saw Coldplay that same night.
  20. Tamar w/Prince, 2006, Warehouse Live (Houston). No one cared about Tamar. It was all Prince.
  21. Rolling Stones, 2006, Zilker Park, Austin.
  22. Muse, 2006, Bayou Music Center, Houston. Muse was loud enough we had to use tissue to fashion earplugs on the fly.
  23. Raconteurs, 2006, Bayou Music Center, Houston.
  24. Austin City Limits Festival 2006, Zilker Park: Killers, Arcade Fire, Muse, others that I don’t remember because I had too much fun.
  25. Coachella Festival 2007. Rage Against the Machine, Girl Talk, Sonic Youth.

I don’t mean for this list to be exhaustive, or the best ones. It’s merely a starting point. Tell me about your memorable concerts!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Satisfaction of a List.”

Barry Bonds Wins Appeal

In a terse per curiam opinion, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Barry Bonds’ conviction for obstruction of justice.

The feds prosecuted Bonds based on his answers to this line of questioning:

Prosecutor: “Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”

Bonds: “I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but … we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?”

Prosecutor: “Right.”

Bonds: “That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see. …”

Prosecutor: “And, again, I guess we’ve covered this, but — did [Anderson] ever give you anything that he told you had to be taken with a needle or syringe?”

Bonds: “Greg wouldn’t do that. He knows I’m against that stuff. So, he would never come up to me — he would never jeopardize our friendship like that.”

Prosecutor: “OK. So, just so I’m clear, the answer is no to that, he never gave you anything like that?”

Bonds: “Right.”

I’d forgotten the flimsy basis of Bonds’ conviction.That type of exchange occurs all the time during civil depositions and trials. I’ve seen countless witnesses testify in a manner similar to Bonds. Did Bonds answer the question directly? No. Did he eventually answer the question? Yes. So the feds prosecuted Bonds for not answering the question the first time? That constitutes a felony now? Puh-leeze.

Good lawyers persist in the face of evasive answers and secure the answers they need. Once that’s accomplished, the lawyer continues. That’s what the prosecutor did with Bonds. The fact that the feds resorted to going after Bonds for obstruction based on that testimony demonstrates the utter failure of their investigation.

Without condoning Bonds’ evasive answers, and notwithstanding my belief that jurors should decide facts, I don’t see how his testimony can constitute a felony. I’m happy the Ninth Circuit reversed.

Polite Company?

Today’s Daily Prompt (and an excuse for me to bang out a post after way too long) asks:

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

I disagree with the premise.  A person’s religious perspective and political viewpoints can reveal much about a person. Through discussing these things, I can begin to learn more a person, what motivates him or her, and maybe find some common ground along the way.

A quick anecdote on how discussing politics and/or religion can work well. Last June, I attended a dinner with some insurance industry clients. I’d spoken with a few of these folks over the phone but I hadn’t met any  During dinner, I tipped my hand and described myself as someone who identifies as a capital-D Democrat. I established an immediate connection with one of the clients by taking a risk and revealing a little bit about myself. We apparently shared somewhat similar views and I wouldn’t have learned that if I wouldn’t have opened up a bit. I also established something of a connection with a second client who is a self-described conservative. Why? I think he appreciated that I owned my convictions. Throughout dinner, we disagreed on several matters, and we did so without becoming disagreeable. Ultimately, our dinner conversations strengthened our professional relationship.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found the person’s actual views matter less and less.  Assuming the other person doesn’t hold some view that I abhor, it’s more important to me whether a person articulates their beliefs and respects my perspective than whether the person agrees with me. Who wants to surround themselves with sycophants? That’s boring. If I want an echo chamber, I’ll watch cable news.

Obviously, there’s no hard and fast rule. Discussing these topics with people who are either dogmatic or disinterested can be challenging. It’s even worse when the person simply doesn’t respect different views. I probably don’t want to spend much time with those people anyway. I prefer learning whether a person is fouled up in the beginning of a relationship than the middle.

It’s a basic trust issue. No one wants to bare a part of themselves only to have someone else, stranger or not, castigate them for how they think. That’s why I try to remain civil with people whom I strongly disagree.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”

Friday’s Song to Start the Weekend: Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Incoming rains forced organizers to cancel the first day of this weekend’s MS-150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. I can see the clouds gathering and the trees swaying outside my office window.

Dylan’s song addresses a different rain, of course, but the title fits. No one wants to hear “November Rain,” anyway.