April 18, 2014

The MC5: The Revolution as Serious Fun.

The MC5 truly believed in the power of rock & roll to change the world.

--Rolling Stone

Below is the MC5's Wayne Kramer singing "Ramblin' Rose" at Wayne State University in Detroit in July 1970, two months after the shootings on May 4, 1970 at Kent State. Note that Patti Smith's husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, now deceased, is the non-dancing guitarist in the dark cowboy shirt. One critic: "The MC5 brought out the animal in every audience."

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Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia.

Mother died and left me reckless,
Daddy died and left me wild.
No, I'm not good lookin',
I'm some sweet woman's angel child.

--William Samuel McTier (1898–1959)

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April 17, 2014

National Academy of Sciences: Methane releases from Pennsylvania fracking grossly underestimated.

A significant environmental development appeared in the Los Angeles Times two days ago. The story was apparently missed by mainstream press in western Pennsylvania. See "EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites", which begins:

Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows.

Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency is expected to issue its own analysis of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as early as Tuesday, which will give outside experts a chance to assess how well regulators understand the problem.

Hat tip: Pittsburgh-based businessman Michael Simms.

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Joshua Doubek photo: Halliburton frack site, Bakken Formation, North Dakota

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Chekov on Storytelling.

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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Chekov in Melikhovo, Russia, 1897

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April 16, 2014

Sarah Silverman for Congress in 2016, New Hampshire, 1st Congressional District.

And what's not to like? Forty-three now, she's smart, well-educated, articulate, outspoken--and of course funny. She grew up in Manchester, NH. She is very likely a Democrat. Interesting fact: Silverman's mother, Beth Ann, was Sen. George McGovern’s personal campaign photographer during his 1972 presidential bid.


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Dupont Circle: Best 'Hood in DC.

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April 15, 2014

Is clean technologies still a fad?

For over three decades, all manner of "alternative energy" products have been pitched as safer, healthier and cheaper ways to energy independence, especially during periods when oil prices are at their highest. Certainly, the idea of cleantech, green technologies and renewable resources is not new. The chronic obstacle for the industries that have formed around the idea? Making non-fossil energy sources affordable to consumers. But some cost-efficiencies are finally being achieved. At the very least, clean technologies these days is more than a recurring new age fad. See "Myths and realities of clean technologies", just out from McKinsey & Company.

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Offshore wind farm near Copenhagen

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April 14, 2014

The Economist: "Ukraine, the disappearing country"

Here. For Russia, “this region will not be enough. They want everything. They will take all Ukraine.”

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Th Economist

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Our advice on Mondays? Wilson. Pickett.

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April 12, 2014

It's Saturday: Make yours Moxie, campers.

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April 11, 2014

James Michener: On Rewriting.

I'm not a very good writer--but I'm an excellent rewriter.

--James A. Michener, 1907-1997

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Michener, April 1951, Nina Leen (Life Magazine)

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Discovery: It shouldn't be a Wankfest, folks.

Trials are always about people.

Even high-stakes business v. business cases before federal trial courts or arbitrations panels abroad will lead your staff to an American Legion hall, a local official, a fire chief, or a beat reporter for a small newspaper.

Before you schedule a deposition, do some informal investigation. Next time a new case begins, resist rushing into written discovery and depositions. Step back from the discovery routine--you'll get into that bubble soon enough--and learn a few things on your own.

This is not a new idea. Over 20 years ago, James McElhaney, a gifted lawyer, writer and teacher of trial tactics, and the ABA Litigation Section, first published McElhaney's Trial Notebook, now in its fourth edition. Discovery, McElhaney noted, is a good way to learn what a witness will say, or to bind a party or witness to a particular version of the facts. But, he continued, it is also "a very inefficient way to get information."

Let us add to that:

Most of the formal discovery you see is worse than inefficient. It is often unimaginative, cookie-cutter, straight-up lazy, wasteful, client-unfriendly and a hopelessly dumb-ass way to learn much of the background information, and many of the facts, that will frame and flesh out your case. This is especially true of depositions, and (for that matter) any other live sworn testimony. If you really don't have to "wing it", don't.

So, hey, think a bit on your own. Prepare--but do that differently.

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Continue reading...

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April 10, 2014

The Duke experience: Salon excerpt from new book about Duke lacrosse rape case.

In early 2006, three members of Duke University's nationally ranked lacrosse case were falsely accused of rape in a protracted, much publicized, over-hyped criminal case brought in Durham, North Carolina (where Duke, for odd historical reasons, is located). It led, for starters, to the resignation of the Duke lacrosse team's head coach, cancellation of the remainder of school's 2006 lacrosse season, and the disbarment of the case's initial lead prosecutor for Durham County, North Carolina. The lacrosse case even had/has its own legal blog, Durham-In-Wonderland, still continuing, and one of the the better analytical blawgs out there. And now there's a new book (the third, by my count) about the episode: "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities" (Scribner) by William D. Cohan, a well-regarded business writer. Cohan, like me, is a Duke grad. The party where the alleged rape occurred was in a house a few down from my house at Duke, on Buchanan Avenue, when as an undergraduate I worked on Duke's daily newspaper. I am still active in things Duke. So I will buy and read the book. In the meantime, see this excerpt from the book in Tuesday's Salon. Note: While anyone could gather from the Salon excerpt alone that Cohan is a fine researcher, investigator and storyteller--I already know he is, having read his previous book on Goldman Sachs--I'll read the whole book before spouting off on it. Except it's not premature to comment on the book's sensational full title, i.e., with the subtitle ending in "the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities". It's ambitious; that's fine. But it panders a bit, too, even if the book supports it. In the meantime, let's just ask that Scribner be less trite and spastic when it shills books.

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April 09, 2014

From "the rude institutions of those Barbarians".

The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany; in the rude institutions of those Barbarians we [received] the original principles of our present laws and manners.

--Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter IX (1782)

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April 08, 2014

Ontario trial judge: "Paper must vanish from this Court..."

So says Canadian Justice David M. Brown in a case administration decision penned on April 5 in Bank of Montreal v Faibish, 2014 ONSC 2178 (CanLII). The always-excellent SLAW, Canada's online legal magazine, just reported this. Excerpt from Justice Brown's decision, triggered in part by "profound frustration":

I know there are judges available who are chomping at the bit to conduct more e-trials. Paper must vanish from this Court and, frankly, the judiciary cannot let the legal profession or our court service provider hold us back. Accordingly, I order that the six-week trial of the Loretta and Brome Actions be conducted as electronic trials. More than enough time exists before the October 6 start date to organize the trial materials electronically. I order counsel to provide me with a formal e-trial plan at the June 26, 2014 case conference.

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April 07, 2014

Think you can prepare and skillfully interview anyone? Then try Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sometime.

Think you can skillfully interview anyone? I do. I take pride in dragging out facts, doing cross and direct, taking depositions, putting people at ease and, in general, making contact with people and getting them to open up. I'm good at it, others tell me. And then this morning I read The New Republic's recent interview with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago congressman and Obama's colorful ex-chief of staff. This was that rare you-cannot-prepare-for-everything interview. TNR reporter Issac Chotiner was a very good sport--few journalists or lawyers could have done better. Me? Well, I like Mayor Emanuel. But I would have likely lost my temper at a couple of junctures. Strike that. Not likely. For sure. It's an interesting if contentious conversation.

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Washington Post

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April 06, 2014

Cross-Culture: Canada, the next global player.

"Deferential yet stoic" Canada is poised for a bigger global role, says Cross-Culture in its new post, "The Quiet Colossus". One of the best articles at Cross-Culture yet. Note in particular the points on Canadian-Russian partnerings in the Arctic region. Excerpt:

Canada, multilingual and multicultural, with favourable demographics and substantial economic freedom, is destined to exercise far greater influence amid the great powers than she hitherto has chosen to do: laid back and universally popular (who hates Canadians?), protected on either side by two great oceans and with access to a slowly-warming third, and with a friendly neighbour to the south, Canada can choose her friends and partners with little fear of being rebuffed.

No two countries in the Arctic region share so much in common as Canada and Russia. A map of the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre shows that the ocean is virtually closed by the coastal areas of Russia, Canada and Greenland. By far the largest Arctic nations, Canada and Russia – neighbours across the North Pole – bear a shared responsibility for the state of affairs in the region and must see each other as strategic partners.

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Sunday: Townshend Gives Blood.

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April 05, 2014

Saturday's Jean-Paul Henri, Existential Cat: "Being, Nothingness and Le Vet."


Jean-Paul, the existential cat, belongs to one Will Braden.

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April 04, 2014

Legal London in the Spring: Love, Labor and Literature

Each Spring, we send you the complete text of a circa-1595 comedy by Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost. You can read it aloud--or, even better, act it out. First performed before Queen Elizabeth at her Court in 1597 (as "Loues Labors Loſt"), it was likely written for performance before culturally-literate law students and barristers-in-training. The notion was that such well-rounded humans would appreciate its sophistication and wit at the Inns of Court in still over-percolating Legal London. And, most certainly, it was performed at Gray's Inn, where Elizabeth was the "patron". Interestingly, the play begins with a vow by several men to forswear pleasures of the flesh and the company of fast women during a three-year period of study and reflection. And to "train our intellects to vain delight".

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April 03, 2014

Long Beach

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The Pier, 1905

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Perfectionism. The horror, the horror.

Perfectionism is the downside of Type A. While a great starting point, and wonderful instinct, the drive to get things absolutely 100% right in every gory detail is also a curse: of eldest children, professionals, knowledge workers, most lawyers, some spouses and all of our Moms. Ah, devil perfectionism. The horror, the horror. Too much, and you need rehab. Your colleagues start questioning your judgment. Clients 99% of the time are not paying you to be perfect. They don't want it. Be excellent, not perfect. See, e.g., "Rule 10: Be Accurate, Thorough and Timely--But Not Perfect".

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April 02, 2014

Hermann Hesse: On missing the whole bloody point of life.

It is hard to find this track of the divine in the midst of this life we lead.

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf (1927)

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April 01, 2014

A backstage pass to the world.

The Strip, Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. As the fictional movie character John Milton said, law is a backstage pass to the world. How many lawyers have a practice with client meetings two blocks from the Viper Room? Probably quite a few. But I grew up in the Midwest--where TGIF restaurants are considered to be pretty wild, and it's eccentric to wear a trench coat and tasseled loafers on the same day. So this kind of meeting venue may be my notion of gratitude.

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March 31, 2014

Mr. Chavez

Today, the American states of California, Colorado and Texas observe an official state holiday to honor the late Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a Mexican-American civil rights and labor leader who, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, brought worldwide attention to the low pay, poor living conditions and poor working conditions of American farm workers, including the health threat posed by pesticides to workers' health. A tireless organizer of non-violent strikes and boycotts, Chavez was instrumental in the formation of the United Farm Workers, and guided the UFW until his death in 1993. For his work, he earned the respect and admiration of countless contemporary American leaders and politicians.

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César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 - April 23, 1993)

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March 30, 2014

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

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"Portrait of Chess Player"

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Coming soon: The Easter Ferret.

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March 29, 2014

It's Saturday Night: Dr. Johnson on Drinking.

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."

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March 28, 2014

Mississippi Fred McDowell: John Henry.

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Judge Lebovits on How to Answer Interrogatories.

A couple of years ago, Ray Ward at his superb the (new) legal writer flagged a nicely done nuts-and-bolts resource for answering written interrogatories by Manhattan's Judge Gerald Lebovits which appeared in the January 2012 New York State Bar Association Journal.

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March 27, 2014

St. Genevieve: I know it, I see it.

Get down on your knees and pray! I know it, I see it. The Huns will not come.

Sainte Genevieve (422-512) saved Parisians from the Huns, the legend goes, in 451. People had started to flee Paris in anticipation of the invasion led by Attila--but stopped when she told them she had a vision that the Huns would not enter Paris. She became the city's patron saint. In 1928, a grateful Paris erected a statue to her on the Pont de la Tournelle (now about 400 years old). Genevieve is facing east, the direction from which the Huns approached. She is also said to have converted Clovis, king of the pagan Franks, to Christianity. If you walk from the Right Bank to the Left Bank near the Ile Saint Louis, you walk right under her, with Notre Dame on your right.

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March 26, 2014

Wednesday: And now it's time to...


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March 25, 2014

Sterling Hayden, American original.

Although Hayden (1916-1986) was not in love with Hollywood or acting, he was a highly regarded actor who was cast in westerns, action films and film noir for over forty years, usually as a leading man. He was also a spy, war hero, seeker, sailor, adventurer, rebel, gifted writer and eccentric's eccentric, all six foot five of him. He was authentic. Never contrived, posed, phony or obliged to be different. Never sucking up. A pure lover of being alive. Read his biography, artful screed and best work, in "Wanderer" (1977).

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March 24, 2014

If you're a professional, 24/7 is really not too much to ask.

See "Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7" in our annoying but true 12 Rules.

1. Law is a service business.

2. Lawyers are not royalty.

3. It's a privilege to practice law (and to work, too).

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Image: The wonderful Whole Theatre, Charlottesville, Virginia.

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March 22, 2014

Maximilien Luce: Port of London, Night.

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"Port of London, Night" (1894), oil on canvas, by Maximilien Luce (French, 1858 – 1941).

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March 21, 2014

Peter Paul Rubens: The painter loved a great feast.

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The Feast of Venus, circa 1630-1640. By Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Flemish Baroque Painter, Diplomat, Charmer, Father, Husband, Savvy Businessman, Fluent in Six Languages, Workaholic, Renaissance Man. Raised in Cologne and Antwerp.

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My friend Ernie from Glen Burnie: The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Lawyers.

Return of EFGB and the Seven Habits. Lawyers who won't take a stand is a time-honored tradition. Ernie from Glen Burnie, a life-long friend of mine, is not such a creature. It's just his nature. He'll stand up for people who pay him--and people he just met on the subway. You can read Ernie's story. It's about an old parchment he claims was discovered in Alexandria, Virginia, around the same time we both began practicing law in the District. Do see "The Seven Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers". This is a true story, mostly. So listen up.

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Stand-Up Guys: Ernie, a dead-ringer for 1950s icon Neal Cassady, and the author, during their pre-lawyer years in Washington, D.C.

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"How much money has the client spent so far?"

What Each Timekeeper On A Project Should Know: Knowing what the client is paying your firm informs and affects the strategy of every big project, and affects even the overall business strategy of the client if the stakes are high enough.

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March 20, 2014

Living Well: Samuel Johnson on John Dryden.

The effects of a vigorous genius working upon large materials.

--Samuel Johnson, commenting on the life work of John Dryden (1631-1700), English poet, critic and playwright.


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From The Indian Emperour

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