Author Archives: paulmcollinsjr

Lesser Known Texas Musicians

As we head into the weekend, I thought I would share a post discussing one of my favorite passions: music. The State of Texas has produced a wide range of high-profile musicians: Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, Lyle Lovett, Roy Orbison, Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, to name but a few. While these musicians have certainly earned their places in the canons of Texas music history, below I discuss some lesser known Texas artists who have excited me in recent years.

The Gourds. Almost impossible to categorize, The Gourds represent a blend of music that ranges from county to rock to zydeco, with some bluegrass thrown in for good measure. They achieved some notoriety in the late 1990s with their cover of Snoop Dog’s “Gin and Juice.” The Gourds have a well deserved reputation for incredible live performances. Recommended album: Heavy Ornamentals

James McMurtry. One of my absolute favorite songwriters. He is the son of Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurtry and he certainly inherited his father’s storytelling chops. James McMurtry’s songs range from outrageous accounts of family reunions (“Choctaw Bingo”) to sublime tales of weathering a hurricane (“Hurricane Party”). Recommended album: Just Us Kids

Okkervil River. Okkervil River is one of the bands that I have been most excited about of late. I suppose one would categorize them as indie-rock (although I’m not sure what that means as a genre). I’d make a favorable comparison to Wilco. Okkervil River is defined by phenomenal songwriting (“John Allyn Smith Sails”) and occasionally abstract musicianship (“Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe”). Recommended album: The Stage Names

Old 97s. One of the pioneers of the alt-country scene, along with the likes of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. Rhett Miller and company’s tunes reflect the careful combination of country music and punk rock, although they have been known to write the occasional sentimental ballad (“Question”). Another great live act. Recommended album: Wreck Your Life

RTB2: Denton boys done good. Two dudes playing straight ahead blues rock on a guitar and drum kit. Ryan Thomas Becker writes moody, rocking tales of everyday life (“The Spilling Blood Child”).  RTB2 have become local critical darlings of late, so I am expecting big things. Recommended album: The Both of It

See also: Hayes Carll, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Opie Hendrix, The Meat Purveryors, Midlake, Slobberbone


Last Friday, I received a phone call from a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She was in the process of writing a story regarding Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, Bruno. The story centered on an effort by Movieguide, which is published by the pro-family values interest group Christian Film & Television Commission, to convince local government officials to injunct screening the movie on the grounds that it offends contemporary community standards. The Movieguide press release contains a laundry list of reasons as to why the group feels the movie is obscene.

A few things struck me as particularly interesting about this effort. First, the Motion Picture of Association of America, a rather conservative organization in its own right, gave the film an R rating. It seems to me that convincing local officials to screen an R rated movie and determine that it is obscene is a largely fruitless endeavor. Second, I wonder whether this effort might have a boomerang effect by convincing those who otherwise might not see the movie to view it, something that apparently occurred when explicit lyrics warning labels were placed on albums in the 1980s. Lastly, I wonder if this was largely an opportunity for Movieguide to generate some nice press for itself. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram story alone was picked up by more than 20 other newspapers, ranging from the Modesto Bee to the Charlotte Observer. So, perhaps the effort was more about generating publicity for organizational maintenance purposes than genuinely trying to convince local communities to prohibit the screening of Bruno.

Sotomayor Rated “Well Qualified” by the ABA

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Judiciary has unanimously rated Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor “well qualified”—the highest rating a nominee can receive. As a District Court nominee, a “substantial majority” of the panel gave her a “qualified” rating, while a minority rated her “well qualified.” As a Court of Appeals nominee, she received a “well qualified” rating from a “substantial majority” of the panel, while a minority of the panel rated her “qualified.”

The Joy of Minor League Baseball

Following up on Chris’ excellent post regarding Mariano Rivera’s 500th save, I thought I’d share a quick post encouraging readers to check out a minor league baseball game.


1) They are cheap. While it’s easy to spend upwards of $75 a ticket on a major league baseball game, one can typically get great seats at a minor league game for less than $10. During the week, most franchises have specials that cut this even further. When I was in graduate school, the Binghamton Mets (AA) had a two for Tuesday special (that continues to this day). With a student ID, I could get seats on the third base line for about $4 and enjoy 2 for 1 Yuengling lagers.

2) They have tons of local color. Almost all minor league franchises have something unique to offer, especially regarding ballpark drink and fare. The Binghamton Mets sell speedies, marinated meat served on a hotdog roll. The Fort Worth Cats (Independent) feature beer from Rahr, a local brewery. The Quad Cities River Bandits (A) are holding a “Van Down by the River” contest at every game this season, giving fans the chance to take in a game from—you guessed it—a van down by the river.

3) You get to see the future stars of major league baseball. The most exciting part of minor league baseball is the opportunity to see the future stars of the game. While I was growing up, I had the opportunity to see Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Deion Sanders, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera play for the now defunct Albany-Colonie Yankees (AA). Rob Guidry even made a rehab start with the team. In graduate school, I remember watching David Wright and Jose Reyes play on the same team. There was no doubt those kids were going somewhere.

Intradisciplinary Communication

A decade ago, it was fairly common for students of law and courts to lament the lack of interdisciplinary communication between political scientists, law professors, and scholars from other disciplines (e.g., Cross 1997; Rosenberg 2000). Fortunately, much has changed in the past decade. Indeed, it is clear that there is a growing trend toward interdisciplinary in the study of law and courts. In my mind, this is a most welcome development. I am particularly excited by the incorporation of social psychological perspectives to explain judicial decision making, an approach that makes up the core basis for much of Friends of the Supreme Court: Interest Groups and Judicial Decision Making.

While I recognize the importance of interdisciplinary communication, one of things that has always struck me as odd is the lack of intradisciplinary communication among interest group scholars in political science. More specifically, it seems as if there are two communities of interest group scholars within political science: 1) those who study organizations in the courts and 2) those who study interest groups in the elected branches of government and/or among the more general populace. Even a cursory glance at the latter body of research reveals that students of interest groups in the elected branches rarely incorporate intuitions from interest group litigation research into their studies. This is unfortunate, for I am certain that these two groups of scholars have much to tell one another (see also Wasby 1997).

Recognizing this, Lisa Solowiej and I recently published an article that uses counteractive lobbying theory—originally developed to explain interest group interactions with member of Congress—to explain amicus curiae participation in the Supreme Court. In large part, our motivation for writing this article was to attempt to illustrate how interest groups lobbying the Court are often influenced by the same factors that shape interest group interactions with other political decision makers. In other words, we wanted to breakdown some of the barriers to intradisciplinary communication among political scientists studying interest groups.

Solowiej, Lisa A., and Paul M. Collins, Jr. 2009. “Counteractive Lobbying in the U.S. Supreme Court.” American Politics Research 37(4): 670-99. (gated; for a copy of the article, feel free to send me an email at pmcollins “at” unt “dot” edu.)

Theories of counteractive lobbying assert that interest groups lobby for the purpose of neutralizing the advocacy efforts of their opponents. We examine the applicability of counteractive lobbying to explain interest group amicus curiae participation in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the merits. Testing the counteractive lobbying hypotheses from 1953 to 2001, we provide strong support for the contention that interest groups engage in counteractive lobbying in the nation’s highest court. Our findings indicate that, like the elected branches of government, the Supreme Court is properly viewed as a battleground for public policy in which organized interests clash in their attempts to etch their policy preferences into law.


Cross, Frank B. 1997. “Political Science and the New Legal Realism: A Case of Unfortunate Interdisciplinary Ignorance.” Northwestern University Law Review 92(1): 251-326.

Rosenberg, Gerald N. 2000. “Across the Great Divide (Between Law and Political Science).” Green Bag 3(Spring): 267-72.

Wasby, Stephen L. 1997.  “Crosscutting the Subfields: Learning from our Colleagues.” PS: Political Science and Politics 30(4): 747-51.

What Drew You to the Study of Law and Courts?

I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Jeff and Andy for the opportunity to guest blog on Voir Dire. Hopefully, the readers will find what I have to say at least marginally interesting. I plan to cover a number of topics, some academic, some not so much. Jeff and Andy were kind enough to give me fairly substantial leeway in terms of my posts and I plan to take them up on that offer.

I’ll begin with one of my favorite questions to ask prospective graduate students and faculty members: What drew you to the study of law and courts? Over the years, I’ve heard a wide range of answers to this question and they never cease to fascinate me.

I’ll share an abridged version of own narrative.

My father is an attorney who spent 20 plus years as a county legislator. My mother is a schoolteacher. Growing up, my parents instilled in me a strong sense of the importance of these career paths, although I was drawn most heavily to the law. I entered the University of Scranton fully set on going to law school. I could see the “Collins and Son, P.C.” sign in my head.

However, during the course of my studies at Scranton, two things occurred. First, I spent a summer working as a law librarian. This gave me a keen sense of the day-to-day activities of lawyers. I came to realize that the romantic view of lawyers often portrayed on television and in the movies rarely meshed with the real business of attorneys, even litigators. Second, I became fascinated with the life of academics. It occurred to me that a career spent educating, researching, and never leaving a college campus was exceptionally appealing. Indeed, I recall speaking with a faculty member at Scranton about my career path. When asked what I was interested in doing post-undergraduate, I replied “I kind of like your job.” With those words, I finally managed to get the courage up to explore something other than law school.

So there you have it. The offspring of an attorney/politician and a schoolteacher grows up to teach political science and law. It seems kind of silly that it took me into my early twenties to figure that one out.