December 19, 2014

Big day Sunday for all you pagans in New York, DC, LA and Dublin.

Sunday the 21st is the winter solstice. It has big meanings in science, spirituality, religions and world history and culture. Many scholars believe that winter solstice, in effect, drove the date for celebrating Christmas. The retention of pagan forms and the practicing a newer religion like Christianity at the same time is an historical pattern. Rome is one example. And it certainly takes nothing away from either co-existing faith in matters of worship, spirituality, beliefs or mythology. A good live example of this is in the world today? Catholic Ireland. Things Druid still inform most facets of day-to-day Ireland life. Completely sane Catholics in Ireland still believe in the little people.

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Tower Hill, 1957

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December 18, 2014

Cuba

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

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Yeats on Writing Well

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.

--W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

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December 17, 2014

One remarkable upside--yes, upside--of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report.

Last night North Korea blasted the United States over the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report released last week on CIA interrogation practices--now known by most of us simply as "the Senate torture report". Last week, similar indictments and gloatings came from China and Russia almost immediately on the report's publication. These condemnations were of course predictable paybacks by three nations the U.S. has consistently attacked as abusers of human rights. The report has been an international comeuppance in the extreme and, for my money, the story of the year: world's longtime human rights cop loses much of its moral ground.

But there's a bright side. How many countries--how many developed nations that call themselves democracies--would "self-report" in real time heinous violations of its own rules on the conduct of war, its own interrogation/torture policies or indeed its own cherished human rights principles? America may be unique here. The release itself of the Senate torture report last week is something I, for one, am happy about in that sense. As egregious as its contents are, we can take certain pride in its publication to the world. Would any other nation do that?

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Is Sen. Elizabeth Warren fun or what?

Not sure I would vote for her for anything. But I do like her in the conversation. She scares the smug and comfortable shitless. In fact, she reminds me of what H.L. Mencken once said about newspapers.

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December 16, 2014

Suggestion: Read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock over the holiday to see what he got right.

Which was quite bit. Toffler's Future Shock (Random House 1970) was published nearly 45 years ago and was, in hype terms, the late 60s-early 70s equivalent of Tom Friedman's The World is Flat (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2005). Like Friedman's classic, Future Shock is brave and thoughtful--but much more ambitious as a possible guide to the future. Friedman tried to show how us how globalization was changing and would continue to change everything we daily experience. Toffler, who came up with term "information overload", had the idea that too much change too fast is overwhelming and bad for us. The two bestsellers are very different and, in a way, companion works.

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December 15, 2014

Clients don't want perfect. They want excellent. Excellent is way harder.

Clients 99.5% of the time are not paying you to be perfect. Clients don't want perfect. In the rare instances they do want perfect, they will let you know. So clients want excellent. Be excellent, not perfect. See, e.g., "Rule 10: Be Accurate, Thorough and Timely--But Not Perfect" of our world-famous and irritating but life-changing 12 Rules of Client Service.

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Perfectionism: The horror, the horror.

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December 14, 2014

Pantheon: Happy Birthday, Ms. Remick.

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Actress Lee Remick died of liver and kidney cancer in 1991 at the age of 55. If she were alive today, she would only be 79 and, I like to think, still working. Born this day in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1935, Remick was 5'8", with amber hair and stunning blue eyes. She studied acting and dance as a teenager and continued with drama at both Barnard College and at the Actor's Studio in New York City. Although she is best known for her roles in two iconic movies, Days of Wine and Roses and The Omen, she worked both stage and screen during her busy career, which started at the age of 18. She had grace and natural class. She lit up rooms without smiling, moving or gesturing. In 1988, near the end of her life and in her early fifties, Remick sat in the row behind me during hearings in the Rayburn Building. I was attending as an associate for a firm client. (Unannounced and not testifying, she was there as an observer.) I have no idea why I looked to the row behind me but, after I did, it was hard for me to keep my eyes off Remick, even in her obviously plain clothing, and with little makeup. I was staring. She was 25 years older. I still can't explain it.

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December 12, 2014

113th Congress, 2nd Session: A Passion for Excellence

Attaboy, Congress. The peoples' chamber of the most elite legislative body the world has known squeaked one by to save us all. Last night the House of Representatives, at the last minute and by a narrow margin, passed a $1.1 Trillion funding bill. New York Times: House Narrowly Passes Bill to Avoid Shutdown; $1.1 Trillion in Spending.

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The Last Plantation steps up.

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Pantheon: Mary Harris Jones

Put aside your party line, your ideology and anything else you use to avoid thinking on your own. School teacher, seamstress, businesswoman, community organizer, Chicago girl and Ireland-born, Mary Harris "Mother Jones" (1837-1930) had big ones. You have to admit that. What a resume, most of it from after she turned 50.

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Denounced on the U.S. Senate floor as the "grandmother of all agitators."

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Prisoner of Rock 'n' Roll: Help, I'm a Rock.

How was your week, Campers?

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December 11, 2014

Dan Harris: What's your Vietnam business strategy?

Dan Harris at China Law Blog asks What’s Your Vietnam Strategy? He expands on an earlier article (May 19) he penned this year at Above The Law, intriguingly entitled China Plus One: How Vietnam’s Riots Help American Businesses. The May 19 post notes that Vietnam is becoming the number one choice for American companies looking "to diversify or expand beyond China". Read both articles. Here are two excerpts from the earlier one:

It is a safe (for Americans anyway) and beautiful country. It has great food (sorry, but that matters to me). It is a relatively inexpensive place to live well and its wages are low. Its people generally like Americans, and English is by far the leading foreign language in its schools. Vietnam (not China) is a member of ASEAN and Vietnam (not China) will be a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All of these things are plusses for business. Its main minuses are that its electrical and transportation are relatively undeveloped and it is certainly no less corrupt than China.

But what about the rioting and the fact that the Vietnamese government has felt compelled to post 3-6 police or army personnel on virtually every street corner in both Ho Chi Minh City (where I was earlier today) and Hanoi to quell protests? Though thousands of Chinese have fled Vietnam — fearing for their lives — none of the riots nor any of the violence has been directed at any American or American company....

The Vietnamese with whom I have met on this trip and heard on the news are uniformly emphasizing that Vietnam wants American investment, and that the riots should not be viewed otherwise. Both through official and unofficial channels, the government has made clear that it values the Americans here and it badly wants their businesses to stay. The Vietnamese lawyers and businesspeople are all telling me the same thing.

The American businesspeople here are saying the riots are irrelevant to their Vietnam plans. They view the riots as having been against China and against Taiwanese factory owners whom the Vietnamese view as in league with China. Some are even saying that Vietnam’s “China problem” will better position American companies seeking to do business in Vietnam. They see the possibility of increased sales of American goods and services and Vietnamese more likely to choose employment with American companies. To a person, all are convinced that the Vietnamese government takes the rioting seriously and will make every effort to prevent any recurrence.

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Image: Philip Roeland Yannan

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December 10, 2014

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, American badass.

If you have nothing nice to say, come sit by me.

-- Alice Roosevelt Longworth (died 1980, age 96)


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December 09, 2014

Gruesome, ineffective and kept from the public, says Senate summary report on CIA interrogation program.

Well, see my post title above. This is a full Senate committee report I'll read when published, and it may be the story of the year. News services which have had a peek at it seem a bit riled and even surprised. The New York Times wrote at least 7 pieces about the 500 page summary report released today and noted that the report was the worst condemnation of the CIA since the Senator Frank Church released the "Church committee report" in 1970. Church's report led to a series of laws restricting CIA activities. For the details of the more horrific abuses set out in today's report, see 16 absolutely outrageous abuses detailed in the CIA torture report in a Vox post.

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December 08, 2014

Sensitive Litigation Moment: The Profession of Law.

The business of lawyering is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. And then there's a negative side.

--Ernie from Glen Burnie, well-known DC trial lawyer, and apparently borrowing from a famous writer of works about motorcycle gangs, U.S. presidential elections, pharmacology and deep-sea fishing in foreign waters.

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Ernie celebrating a defense verdict

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December 07, 2014

Byron Galvez: Rosa

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"Rosa", 1989, Byron Galvez (1941-2009)

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December 06, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll before The Great Neutering: MC5, Kick Out The Jams,

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December 04, 2014

Dublin, Virginia

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November 30, 2014

Big Spring, Texas

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About 10 miles outside of town

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Van Horn, Texas

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November 29, 2014

Dragoon, Arizona

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November 26, 2014

Publishing: Got an unpublished novel?

If you do, visit Double Bridge Publishing. Double Bridge uses crowdsourcing to get unpublished books critiqued, edited, cover-designed, published, marketed and distributed.

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November 25, 2014

On Thank You Notes.

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The Governess, 1739, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779)

In case your Governess never told you, you're from Mountain Grove, Missouri* or you were stoned all seven years at Hotchkiss, remember that when thanking anyone for something important--a meeting, referral or a dinner--do it and do it promptly with a handwritten thank-you note. We all fail here from time to time. Yet no valid excuses exist for not writing short prompt notes.

Too few of us practice gratitude, in either business or our "other" lives, enough. Some say the practice of saying thanks is good for the soul. Others swear it's good for revenues, too. Many business people and some lawyers with the highest standards taste (i.e., wear socks to meetings or court) think that no written thank-you note means no class--as harsh and low-tech as that may sound.

Typed is okay--but handwritten is better. Even if you are not convinced that thank-you notes are noticed and appreciated (they are), pretend that we know more than you (we do), and do it anyway (thank us later). Good stationery. We suggest Crane's on the lower end, or something better, like stationery from Tiffany's, or a Tiffany-style knock-off, on the higher end. A "studio card", maybe. Plain. Simple. Initials on it at most.

Continue reading...

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November 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to the other Wild Bill.

Happy Birthday to the world-changing conservative and libertarian--he called himself both--the late William F. Buckley, Jr., who died (on my own birthday) six years ago at the age of 82. No matter what our political views are or were, we wish he were still part of the American conversation. He was born in 1925. Boy wonder, author, Renaissance man, publisher, editor, ex-CIA operative, accomplished sailor, harpsichordist, novelist, founder of the National Review, co-founder of YAF, author of over 40 books and crafty Gore Vidal-fighter, Buckley was, for lack of a better word, exotic.

His enormous talents, however, were often lost in the fireworks he wryly set off as a conservative visionary, writer and leader. He was a lightning rod. Unfortunately, one of the earlier books he co-authored 60 years ago supported U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. Yet throughout this life, he formed strong friendships with liberal activists and leaders.

No American has had a better command of the English language, or has reveled in the joy of words, as he did. No one worked harder. No one enjoyed life more. And no one seemed to be on television more in the 60s or 70s, both on his own program and on the talk shows of others. Two fun Buckley facts: During World War II, Buckley entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. In 1945, he was a member of Franklin Roosevelt's honor guard at Roosevelt's funeral. Interestingly, English was his third language. As as a child, Buckley was 100% home-schooled, and he did not formally begin to study English until he was about 7. His first languages were Spanish and French.

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November 23, 2014

Pantheon: Charlize Theron

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Get off your knees, maybe?


Put that mike in my hand/And let me kick out the jams.

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November 22, 2014

Pat Moynihan on The Irish.

There's no point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.

I guess that we thought we had a little more time.

--Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then-Assistant Secretary for Labor, a few days after November 22, 1963


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Continue reading...

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November 21, 2014

I hardly knew ye: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 - November 22, 1963)

Tomorrow, November 22, marks the 51st anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in downtown Dallas, Texas. He was 46 years old. If Kennedy had lived, and were alive today, he would be 97--not a completely inconceivable age for him to have attained given the longevity of some on his mother Rose's side. Below is my favorite photograph of him, likely taken in his late 20s.

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A stick in me hand and a tear in me eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

--from "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye", a popular Irish anti-war song written in early 1800s.


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November 20, 2014

Storytelling: To Judges, Juries, Friends and Foes.

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

--Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

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Chekhov with Maxim Gorky in Yalta, probably 1900

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