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Friday, August 30, 2013

Some Things I Like in Kerrville

Sometimes it's good to remember what attracted me to Kerrville when I moved here 11 years ago. You have to start with the natural beauty of the place, with the river and hills. Then there's the dry climate (compared to Houston). The streets are safe. I don't look all around the parking lot for muggers before I get out of my car at the store, even at night.
Here are some of my favorite places:

Book Stores
Wolfmueller's Books on Earl Garrett - a great used and rare book store specializing in Texas history and literature
Books to Share at the corner of Harper Rd. and Junction H.W. - they have thousands of used books, and you can trade one you've read and pick up one you haven't for 1/2 the list price. They have a whole room full of Western novels.
Hastings Booksacross the street from Broadway Bank - good selection of current books, magazines, videos, music

The Kerrville Library has a good selection, and very helpful, friendly staff
Schreiner Univ. Library - City residents can join for a modest annual membership fee

Restaurants, Food

Rails - small restaurant in restored train station terminal. Nice patio for cooler weather
Green Grocer - Delicatessen on Water St. Good sandwiches, soups and salads

Gibsons - next door to Mamacitas - old time hardware store where you can buy guns, ammo, hunting and fishing gear, work clothes, any kind of hardware. Friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Melody Music - great guitar repair shop, with cool selection of used gear. I had a Les Paul that got the neck snapped near the head stock. Stan fixed it so you can hardly see the line where it broke and it plays great.

Flatrock Lake - across H.W. 27 from VA Hospital. Pretty stretch of the Guadalupe River, great for kayaks and canoes. I'm told there's a good bass population but so far I haven't caught any. On the north side there's a city park with a section set off for dogs to be off leash. Caveat - watch out for the occasional jerk who shows up. Most of the regulars are really nice people (and dogs).

Robert Earl Keen - Great singer songwriter, wrote the all time great outlaw song, "The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends." Benefactor to the community, holds a concert every year with proceeds going to Hill Country Youth Orchestra.

Hagi Hagi Hagiholam started out running a taco stand, and built up a successful chain of Mexican restaurants (Mamacita's in Kerrville, Fredericksburg, San Antonio and New Braunfels). He's a benefactor, sponsoring wounded warrior projects, the annual July 4 fireworks show, rebuilding the old Arcadia Theatre downtown and lots of other work that improves the community.
Thomas Hayden Church - a great, underappreciated actor. He can do comedy, serious drama, anything. You see him around town and he seems like a decent man.

Courthouse Staff - the county employees who make the courthouse run are without exception professional and courteous.

The Judges - All of our judges are decent, fair and hardworking public servants.

The local Bar - 90% of the lawyers here are a pleasure to work with. Professional, diligent, fight hard, but keep it civil. The other 10% - well, I want to keep this post positive, so we'll leave it at that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Deal With the Devil - the FBI's Sordid History With the Mob

Hollywood loves to portray FBI agents as incorruptible heroes. I'd like to see a movie about some of the scum that infest some of the FBI's offices. I've been reading a fascinating book by author Peter Lance, Deal With the Devil, that shows how the top anti-Mafia lawyer in New York City was for years in bed with one of the most brutal Mafia kingpins. Visit Lance's website here.

The Mafia thug was Gregory Scarpa, who quit counting his murders after 50. He had a long history with the FBI. In the 1960's, they used him to kidnap and torture klansmen to solve the murders of civil rights workers. I wrote a short story a few years ago that won second place in the Texas Bar Journal short story contest based on Scarpa in Mississippi. Hoover himself knew and approved.

Roy Lindley DeVecchio was the head of the Columbo squad in NYC. He was Scarpa's handler, although it may be more accurate to say that Scarpa handled him.

Scarpa or one of his crew murdered a DEA agent and got away with it. He sold millions of dollars of drugs, ran the biggest stolen credit card racket, and a stolen car ring. Lance alleges that DeVecchio and his superiors knew it and protected Scarpa to keep the tips on other mobsters coming in.

Meanwhile, in the James 'Whitey' Bulger trial, witnesses are telling lurid stories of how Boston FBI agents helped Bulger murder informants and competitors.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Go To Law School !!

When I got my first job out of law school in 1980, I went to work at a very good law firm in Amarillo. We had the latest technology - xerox copy machines, dictaphones, our secretaries used IBM typewriters (they weighed about 50 lbs.) and mag card cabinets, and fax machines. Cell phones hadn't been invented or if they had, were not available on the civilian market. No one advertised - the ethics codes forbade it.

Lawyers were more genteel, and didn't stab each other in the back to steal clients or get the upper hand in deals or lawsuits. There was no such thing as a Rule 11 letter agreement, because your word was your bond. We hadn't invented the words "Rambo lawyer" yet.

There were 542,000 lawyer in the whole country, one for every 418 people (see the table below from Fordham Law Review). Now there are 1,143,358 lawyers, and it's projected that we'll have 1.5 million in ten years.

"In America today there is one lawyer for every 200 adults. And if you live in Austin, Texas it is about 1 out of 100.Jim Barlow, a former columnist of the Houston Chronicle states the problem of the number of lawyers in a nutshell: "I subscribe to the locust theory. The locust is a fairly benign form of grasshopper until we get too many of them. Then they swarm, eating their weight every day and devouring the countryside.."

1,143,358 lawyers. And our nation's 192 accredited and often subsidized law schools are graduating 40,000 new lawyers each year as they have consistently for the last 20 years. In a decade we will have 1,500,000 lawyers. A 50% increase.

Legal Reform Now

Fordham Law Review

U.S.Population Lawyers P/L Ratio
1960 179,323,000 285,933 627/1
1970 203,302,000 355,242 572/1
1980 226,546,000 542,205 418/1
1988 245,100,000 723,189 339/1

Now lawyers will cheat, lie and steal to get and keep clients, and to get an edge in deals and lawsuits. Too many lawyers act like - and are - jerks. When I was younger I sometimes got carried away, and now I think karma or the fates are paying me back with some of the creeps I have to deal with.

I wouldn't advise any young person to go into law now. Especially those who got liberal arts degrees and are having trouble finding jobs. I'd advise young people to take as much math and science as they could, and learn practical skills like Quickbooks and Excel. If you like working with your hands and things, learn skills you can use in the oil industry, which is in the biggest boom of my lifetime, and probably since Spindletop.

I didn't follow my own advice when I was young. I barely got through high school algebra and avoided science classes. One of my hobbies now is studying the math and science I should have learned on my own. I buy the programs from The Teaching Company, which I cannot say enough good things about.

My final thoughts on this topic - don't go to law school to get rich, or because your daddy is a lawyer and wants you to follow in his steps, or because it's too hard to find a job, or you think it will be exciting like on L.A. or Boston Law or whatever the latest lawyer show is. It ain't like that at all.