Tomorrow, I blog! (Or at least I think I do.)

A good day in court, but also a long day in court.  Being an adjunct, rather than a primary, player, I don’t think I have to go in tomorrow (although I won’t know until later).  In the meantime, I’m assuming that tomorrow, for the first time in a long time, I have a free morning — and you know what that means:  Blogging!!  Yay!  I’ve even got a party picture:


Tonight, though, I rest lest I become completely incoherent.

Dolce & Gabbana, and the politics of boycotts in the internet age

Elton John and BabiesIf you’ve been following the news, you know that Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, of the high-end Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabanna (“D&G”), ignited a firestorm in the gay community when the two men — both gay — came out in favor of the traditional family, and spoke in harsh terms about the artificiality of designer babies for gay men. Elton John, who has two of those designer babies, was outraged, and demanded a boycott. I can’t find the link now, but the Twitter hashtag for boycotting rocketed in popularity, so that it almost ranked up there with BDS boycott hashtags aimed at destroying Israel.

All of which got me thinking, not about traditional marriage and designer babies, but about boycotts in the internet age. In the old days, a boycott was a slow-moving, grassroots effort that developed over enough time for the two parties — the business and the consumers — to think through their positions and to make changes. Even in old-time blogging days, just a few years ago, it might take a called-for boycott as many as two days to take root. In our social media day, though, boycotts take root practically within minutes as hashtags flash across Twitter and Facebook posts multiply exponentially.

This reminds me strongly of the technological changes that have affected lawyers. I started practicing law when law firms were first using facsimiles as a way to communicate with opposing counsel. (Firms used to charge their clients $1 per fax page back in the day.) Even as fax use rose, though, the old ways of snail mail and phone calls were still common.

Snail mail was slow. You’d pen your argument to or demand on opposing counsel, stick it in the mail, and forget about it for a couple of days while you thought about other things or perhaps thought about and refined your approach to the case at issue. Then, you’d get a snail mail back from opposing counsel and begin the “think and write” process all over again. This measured pace helped a great deal to keep tempers in check. It’s hard to hold a head of steam for the two to four days it takes to conduct a single snail mail exchange. Tempers could flare, but it was usually a slow, low, steady burn.

Phone calls, although more immediate than snail mail, had the virtue of innate civility attached to them. As we know from the internet, it’s easier to harangue someone when you’re anonymous than when you’re having a face-to-face call with someone who just greeted you by saying “Hi, Bob, how are you?” Unless opposing counsel was an unmitigated jerk, the norms of polite human interaction kept opposing attorneys from going too far off the rails.

These measured exchanges started changing with faxes. Instead of waiting 24 or 48 hours for missives to reach the other counsel, communications took minutes to send.  The only thing slowing the exchanges down was the fact that most lawyers were still dictating or handwriting their letters. Tapes or handwritten drafts required secretarial transcription, editing, revisions, getting in line at the single office fax machine (which always jammed when you needed it most), etc. Instead of two letters being exchanged in four days, you’d have two letters being exchanged in one day. I witnessed the fact that this increased speed also increased the venom in exchanges between opposing counsel.

And now there’s email. Oy!  Lawyers sitting at their own computers will pound out a half-dozen intemperate exchanges in a single day with opposing counsel. Contrary to what one might hope, this maddened pace doesn’t de-fuse the relationship by bringing instead clarity before hard feelings can fester.  Instead, it encourages ill-feeling by keeping the attorneys at a constant boil as they throw emails back and forth without ever having the forced civility of a face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction with their opposing party.

And so it goes with boycotts. They are increasingly intemperate and ill-informed. I speak from experience. Some years ago, and I honestly don’t remember in which context (and don’t wish to remind myself by looking it up), I insisted that everyone should write letters to certain companies that advertised with something or other. My cause was just but, as I learned, I didn’t control the fire I started. For some reason, despite my blog’s usual low-profile, that post got picked up. I eventually received a very civil letter from one of those companies begging me to stop the letter-writing campaign because the company had already done what the campaign sought. I did a post trying to halt the campaign but, sadly, my “let’s all stop now” post lacked the traction of my “how dare they” post.

I really felt bad about what happened — and I was just a teeny player at a blog, rather than a celebrity or a much-read forum. In today’s world, thanks to social media, businesses are buffeted by wildfire boycotts and letter-writing campaigns. Elton John gets mad at his former buddies, demands an instant boycott of their company, and within less than 24 hours, that company’s financial security (which means the job security for all its employees) may be at terrible risk.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I no longer insist upon boycotts or letter writing campaigns (unless it’s a targeted letter or phone call to a Congress person in the lead-up to a specific vote). I will state the facts I know about an issue, as well as my opinion about those facts. I may say that I never shop at “X” store because those facts make me unhappy, and it makes me uncomfortable to send my business there.  (For example, I don’t buy at Urban Outfitters, which, in addition to selling political views with which I disagree, is invariably vulgar.)  What I don’t do, though, is try to start social media campaigns aimed at destroying someone or something the instant I first hear about something bad the company apparently has done or a position its executives or founders hold.  Companies and their employees ought to be able to think about their ideas without the tremendous economic pressure of a flash social media boycott.

For example, I learned today something that first came to light in August 2014:  Starbucks has no presence in Israel, although it’s well-represented in the rest of the Middle East. Interestingly, these two facts have resulted in two entirely opposite memes — the first, that Starbucks is an anti-semitic, anti-Zionist company, and the second that Starbucks is secretly funneling money to the Israeli government in lieu of a presence in Israel. Starbucks claims that both are untrue.  It’s never funneled money to Israel and it left Israel a long time ago because it had too many operational problems there unrelated to politics.  That’s Starbuck’s story and it’s sticking to it.

Am I going to boycott Starbucks? No. But to be honest, I’m not going to shop there either. Aside from preferring companies that do business with Israel, even if it can sometimes be problematic, I find Starbucks over-priced.  I also especially hate having it preach at me.  It started the preaching with cups that had slogans from Lefties and it’s now trying a “conversation about race” campaign. Frankly, if I’m in a Starbucks, it’s because I desperately want a cup of overpriced hot chocolate, not a conversation with a pierce-nosed, black-lipsticked barista about white privilege or a cup that preaches Progressive salvation.  (At least In ‘n Out is subtle, with its very low profile allusions to the Bible.  Those don’t bother me because (a) I have no problem with the Bible and (b) the allusions are so low profile that only people who know about the Bible n the first place would notice them.)

Okay. I’ve just offered you my opinion about business practices for both Starbucks and In ‘n Out. I haven’t called for boycotts or a letter writing campaigns. I’ve simply offered you data that you can take at face value, or expand upon, or research further, or ignore, or whatever else you want to do…. You’re the consumer. Armed with more information (which is usually readily available on the internet), you can make your own choices.

Just when I thought it was over

After working all day and spending 45 minutes driving 8 miles, I finally sat down at my computer with a happy sigh.  Now I can write!  But noooo.  Just got a phone call.  “Can you pick me up?”  Oy.  I will write tonight, though, even if it kills me!!

A busy day, a crazy world, and a pleasant local discovery

stack_of_filesWell, we got the filing done today and it was a very big deal.  I actually didn’t think it would be so big.  I came in as a pinch hitter a couple of weeks ago, so I only knew the facts of the case that I’d been told.  Once I started writing, though, everyone kept thinking of more relevant facts.  The law was two pages (easy) and the facts were fifteen pages (plus over 100 pages of exhibits).  About two hours before the whole megillah had to get finalized and go to court, I started making “point of diminishing returns” decisions.  I knew that my client wanted “X” quote or “Y” document included, but there simply wasn’t time — especially because the X’s and Y’s were cumulative.  That is, they simply reinforced points that we’d already made and supported.  My philosophy, always, is better a brief that’s somewhat imperfect than a missed drop-dead deadline.  I can deal with imperfections; I cannot (nor can any decent lawyer) deal with a missed filing date.

Yesterday was a fourteen-hour day and today an eight-hour day.  I’m a little tired and am only now beginning to catch up on the news.  It’s not that exciting.

Leftists are still calling baying for Republican senatorial blood after these “traitors” dared to make known the contents of the Declaration of Independence.

Hillary is still a crook, and a fairly inept one, who’s routinely saved only because she gets a pass from our incredibly corrupt media  And I mean corrupt, not as in “taking bribes” corrupt, but as in “so ideologically tainted they will pervert truth to achieve their goals” corrupt.

Obama’s still complaining “why am I always the last one to hear about all the terrible thing’s that happen on my watch?”

The earth is still in the grip of a climate change so overpowering that it accounts not only for all the predicted events that didn’t happen, but also for all the un-predicted events that did happen.  There is no God, but there is Gaia.

Oh, and something nice happened today:  I snuck away from working on the pleading this morning just long enough to take myself to the physical therapist.  This is my third session with him and I’m having less pain and more mobility than I’ve had in years.

The guy has magic hands.  Really.  No kidding.  And — get this — he’s a libertarian/conservative who hates moral relativism, political correctness, victim status, and living life according to the dictates of your own navel.  He even hates Obamacare!  The hour spent with him is therapy for the body and happiness for the mind.

Unfortunately, he’s ferociously (and deservedly) expensive.  Next session will be my last for at least a while.  Still, I will have gotten more out of four sessions with him than out of all the other joint treatments I’ve gotten over the years.  In other words, it was worth every penny — and that is how the free market works.

Now, having been in legal-land for the past 72 hours, I need to go through my inbox, pay bills, do laundry, and generally accomplish ordinary life tasks.  I hope to be back tomorrow at my regularly scheduled times.

Favorite pressure cooker recipes?

Fagor pressure cookerI finally bought myself a pressure cooker — this pressure cooker, to be precise — and I think I’m in love.  I’d hesitated for a long time, because I had grim memories of the old electric one my Mom used to have.  I was always certain that it was going to explode.  The new models, however, are stable and the only sound they make is the hiss of steam.

A pressure cooker is the perfect thing for me:  it accommodates my invariable habit of procrastinating until the very last minute before cooking dinner, the cooking magic all takes place in one pot, and the food is tender and flavorful.  Clean-up’s easy too.

I’m expecting the America’s Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker Perfection cookbook in the mail any day now.  Their recipes are idiot-proof, easy, and tasty, which is why America’s Test Kitchen is always my cookbook company of choice.

Still, the Test Kitchen recipes do tend to be similarly flavored.  You can tell that there’s a single, overriding master palate in that kitchen.  I wouldn’t  mind a little variety.  So, my question (as you’ve gathered from this post title) is:  Do you have any favorite pressure cooker recipe you’d like to share?


An evening of Dancing With The Stars Live!

Dancing with the stars liveI did something unusually frivolous the other day — I went to see the live stage show of Dancing With The Stars. I’ve always loved ballroom dancing (I can recite by heart some of the dialog from Fred & Ginger movies), so I guess it was pretty predictable that I would come to enjoy DWTS.

My delight in the show comes about, in no small part, because of its “getting it right” format. I love entertainment (books, movies, and, apparently, TV shows) that have as their trajectory people who, through hard work, instructive mistakes, enthusiasm, heart, heroism, etc., start at the bottom and work their way to the top.

On DWTS, many of the “stars” (B-listers, athletes, musicians, and “personalities”) who come on the show have never danced before. Some of them never do learn how to dance, but others prove to have previously untapped talents and it’s a delight to see them go from stumbling around to impressive dance chops. And always — always! — the ones who stay the course are the ones who work hard and cheerfully. The lazy ones and the whiny ones flame out quickly. It’s a good life metaphor.

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Random thoughts at the end of a long day

DiscombobulatedMy apologies for not blogging today.  It’s been a peculiar day, to say the least.  I tried to get some work done this morning, but between phone calls and interruptions, I found myself staring at the clock and realizing that I was going to be late for Daniel DiSilva’s talk about his book, Government against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences. I always underestimate how long it will take me to get to the City, and today I was determined to give myself lots of time. Thank goodness I did.

Things started off weird as soon as I left the house. Because of the storms this weekend, one of the intersections no longer has a timed traffic light; it simply had flashing red lights. As always, people stopped much, much longer at the flashing red than they would at an ordinary stop. Those things just seem to freak them out a little.  Indeed, at some point later today, some driver got so freaked out that he (or she) slammed into one of the traffic lights, knocking it to the ground, pulverizing the pavement, and further ruining traffic flow on this peaceful little road with a maximum speed of 30 MPH.

I eventually made it to the southbound side of the freeway, heading to San Francisco, but saw to my dismay that the traffic was completely stopped. That could only mean an accident — or perhaps not. . . .

As the traffic crept forward, I saw that it had stopped because a man with a big smile and a dog on the leash was walking northbound in the middle lane of the freeway.  I think that, maybe, the man’s car had broken down on the side of the road and that a friend, sitting in that same middle lane was a big white truck that seemed to be waiting for him.  All I could think was “What a peculiar way to rescue a friend who’s broken down on the freeway.”

After that, things seemed to go well for a little while. This was my first time seeing the new $31 million movable barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s really, really ugly. I certainly hope that it’s worth the money and aesthetic loss. It seems like a fairly big sacrifice when there have been fewer than 20 head-on fatalities on the bridge in the last 40 years.

Once in the City, my plan was to park at the affordable Portsmouth Square Garage in Chinatown and then use Uber to get to the restaurant, which is located at the base of Market Street, an area with very expensive parking. One block away from the garage, though, I again found myself in completely stopped traffic. Inching forward, I discovered that, in the middle of the Clay and Kearny intersection (a fairly busy one for those who know the City), a woman was singing and dancing, with occasional pauses to throw things out of her basket onto the street and then pick them up again. Even for San Francisco, it was unusual behavior.

The people in the garage were very helpful, so I made it out of there quickly, snatched up my iPhone, turned on my Uber app — and got a message saying my app was out of date and unusable, so would I please download the new app. Do you know how long it takes to download an app without Wifi? It takes 12 minutes, which is how long it took me to walk very quickly from the Portsmouth Square garage, to a restaurant near the Embarcadero.

By the end of the drive, I felt discombobulated, and I’ve felt discombobulated ever since. I somehow got knocked off my stride or, for another metaphor, my flywheel got a hitch in it. Whatever. I just can’t seem to get myself back on track today.  I’ve still got some legal work to do before I can get to bed (my afternoon was piddled  away caring for family members), and I think I just need to reboot.  Tomorrow promises to be a bit more normal.

Crowd-sourcing help wanted, please

Henry VIII's suit of armorI assume you are all familiar with the news story about the U.S. Army’s decision to apologize for and delete a tweet with the phrase “chinks in armor,” one that refers to the vulnerable points in old-fashioned metal armor, but that is now deemed racist because of the word “chink.”

That story reminded me of the time my father got taken to task for using the word “niggardly.” It means “stingy,” and goes back in time to the mid-16th century. It has nothing to do with the insulting American term for a black person. Nevertheless, people don’t use the word anymore because they can be assured that someone will take offense at the fact that the word sounds sort of like an insult.

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#SuperBowl: The winning team is classy, supports America, and supports Israel; the losing team — let’s just say NOT

Tom-Brady-Bill-BelichickI was rooting for the Patriots to win, not because I cared about the Patriots, but because I truly dislike the Seahawks. Russell Wilson is a hugely talented quarterback, but overall I think the team is a classless act, something the players demonstrated perfectly when they elected to start a fistfight in the last seconds of the game, after it was clear that they were losing. Whenever Seahawks players have a choice between sportsmanship and boorishness, they choose the latter. Small surprise that, by a factor of two to win, they lead the league in penalties.

My already-in-place dislike for the Seahawks escalated when I learned this afternoon that their coach, Pete Carroll, a Marin native, is an icon to 9/11 Truthers. He’s never come out explicitly and said he’s a Truther, but he’s professed the type of bewilderment about 9/11’s events that only comes from Truthers’ mouths:

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[VIDEO] Anthony Esolen gives the Medieval Era its due

When I worked at the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, one of my great pleasures was to head to the basement stacks and look at the illuminated manuscripts kept down there. That may explain why I always see the Middle Ages in blazing, gilt-edged color, whereas when I think of the 1920s and 1930s in America I see a rather dark, black-and-white world. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I’ve never underestimated the Middle Ages.

The other reason is my passion of medieval church architecture. After all, how primitive can an era be when it’s capable of the magnificence of St. Chapelle in Paris, which is unequaled by anything else I’ve ever seen:



Prager University has produced a short video explaining that the Dark Ages weren’t dark at all. What the video doesn’t say, but I’ll pass along here is that part of why we look back upon them is because Western history was written by Protestants, who had a vested interest in making the Catholic Church look more repressive than it actually was.