Texas Watch: Looking Out For Consumers And Families with Ware Wendell

TBC 11 | Texas Watch

 

Consumer protection is designed to ensure the rights of consumers. It also entails that there should be fair trade, competition, and accurate information in the marketplace. Texas Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that insurance companies and other corporations are accountable to their customers. Executive Director Ware Wendell leads all phases of Texas Watch. He shares how the organization has been fighting for families and consumers by providing a platform to preserve and strengthen their constitutional rights and protections.

Listen to the podcast here:

Texas Watch: Looking Out For Consumers And Families with Ware Wendell

I’m not defined by my profession. You go to these cocktail parties and within 30 seconds, “What do you do?” That’s a lazy and easy question and unimportant but I’m not defined by that. That’s why I don’t hang out with a lot of lawyers too. They all talk about law-related stuff. It’s exhausting. If you want to talk about, “I’ve got this issue. What do you think about this?” I’ll do that all day with you. To talk about law-related stuff to do it, I’m pretty exhausted.

Do you still have that digital paper?

Yeah, I had the texts and posts. I have the site. I’m not doing anything with it. It was a lot to do. It was, to a large degree, an aggregator how it got started. It geared towards Texas. It was a good try and fun. I still have Facebook and Twitter. I’ve got 10,000 to 15,000 Facebook fans. If I want to put something out, I can. I rarely did. It’s not honest anymore. It’s got a catchy name, a good website.

You’ve got to have somebody who’s thinking about it every day.

I was involved, but it was going to be too much. It was a cheap way to go around.

Why don’t you get a couple of thousand people?

I’d use a political candidate support. It’s nothing too crazy. It would be a good place to put that out there and disseminate it.

I’m trying to start to be some Southeast Texas record. They were trying to get after us.

It’s not a real paper. It’s the chamber of the National Chamber. My opinion about the National Chamber is not that it’s out there for mom and pop thing. That’s what the chamber is.

They’re not dumb. There was an interesting article about how they’re trying to pivot now because they didn’t see things changing. I’ll try to see if I can send it to you.

TBC 11 | Texas Watch
Texas Watch: Texas Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that exists to protect people’s individual rights.

 

I’m glad you’re at the office.

I’ve got Josh Kemp right here from Austin and Jacob Smith as well.

We’ve got our original Beaumont boys.

Josh has got your back.

We’re having a few cocktails here at the office. Jacob’s been here, but I don’t think they all have ever been to the office. The room we do the podcast in, this is my ode to the political process. I’ve got a few things we’ve done on video. You could see these posters behind me. For the most part, everything’s campaign posters. This is a hit piece on Nixon.

Do you buy used cars?

My whole family was in the car business my whole life. It struck home. All this stuff is out of the chronicle from this whole left side here from the year anniversary after JFK shot. That’s a campaign poster for a concert in ‘68 before Bobby was shot. I liked it because in that era, there are psychedelic type of styles and the Birds were playing the concert. This one, I always thought was super cool. That’s a cool print. The mediator gave it to me. This is from ‘76. I got it mainly because I speak Spanish and it’s in Spanish. I thought it was cool.

Was it a great communicator?

Yeah. 1980, that’s Reagan’s campaign poster. I have that there. I was born in ‘77. I don’t remember Carter being president. I was right about the time that I thought Reagan was the president. He was the king of America. From where I can remember until I was eleven, he was the president. It’s nostalgic. The NRA, what do you think that is?

You would think the National Rifle Association.

The trial by jury system is the best lie detector that’s ever been devised in the history of mankind. Click To Tweet

Everybody thinks that it’s for the National Rifle Association. That’s an original placard for the National Relief Act. This building was built in the late ‘20s or early ‘30s. The National Relief Act was a big works plan but in the depression area for people to work. This building here was subscribing to it, you’d put that placard in your window to show you were hiring on the National Relief Act. I think it’s cool.

The gears and the electrification and everything, a lot of the great buildings in Fort Worth were built under NRA.

The most valuable of any of this probably is The Progressive Party over there and the 1912 Bull Moose Party. It’s an unspent campaign donation. They tear off the corner to give you the record. I’m on the back. It’s got this beautiful artwork of this Bull Moose standing over this class of lichen in the mountains. That’s the first modern-style political poster. That’s from the same campaign. You might not agree with him, but you can’t not like him. He’s a hell of a man. That’s the quote from the man on the arena. Steve had that in his office. It all match right in. That’s Obama and me. It’s a cool, crazy Lincoln artwork. It’s a mix. If you came in here and you looked at it, and you’re a lawyer, politically which way do you lean? You probably couldn’t tell if you walked in and looked at all these folks. The centerpiece is Reagan, right next to Carter, next to the NRA poster and then you’ve got all the JFK stuff. I find it all interesting. I need to put more stuff up. I’ve got more stuff.

TR’s politics don’t line up with politics nowadays or even politics of his day. He was willing to take on trust.

I don’t think the politics of any of these guys will match up well now. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Sometimes you looked through rose-colored glasses when you look back to an older time. Maybe there’s some of that going on. There wasn’t bitterness in the extremist. Maybe if I were a target of McCarthy in the ‘50s, I would feel it’s always been there. There are things that you read about, some of the founding fathers would say some pretty crazy stuff about each other too. “Let’s get out the street and let’s start shooting.” At least we’re not doing that.

The negative campaign back then is a lot more negative now. It’s polarized as it is nowadays.

Maybe it’s because I’m looking at it with a historical eye. It was almost satirical and cheek, “I’m going to say some crazy shit because I’m disrespecting you.” It’s so silly that everybody knows that I don’t mean any of this stuff. It’s like a monkey throwing poop. I’m just throwing that over there.

It’s like, “This is where your wife lives. This is where your kids go to school.” I was throwing everybody that information.

That’s ugly. Everybody probably knew where everybody lived and stuff. Ware, I’m glad you’re here. You are much more of a media sensation who is more experienced with this than me. You run a fine organization known as Texas Watch.

I started in 2003, which is a big session. I came on board with them right after that session. I was working for the senior member of the Texas House and worked with Texas Watch on fighting against tort reform. That was the big insurance reform session as well and got to see the good work that they did.

TBC 11 | Texas Watch
Texas Watch: People should get connected with their lawmakers and with the media to communicate their interests.

 

I’ve got this podcast. I get people in eight or nine countries reading. Some of them may not know what Texas Watch is. What does it do?

Texas Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. We fight to protect people’s individual rights, their constitutional rights, especially the right to trial by jury. If you look at the architecture of the constitution, it’s one of the main ways that the founders set it up to where we could protect ourselves, our families and our communities. It’s a central part of the constitution. If I say the Seventh Amendment, a lot of people don’t know what the Seventh Amendment is. They know the First and the Second. Maybe they know the Fourth or the Fifth. Don’t talk to the police if you’re in trouble, but they don’t know the Seventh Amendment, which is the right to trial by jury. It is crucial to holding check in power.

I’m not a constitutional scholar. In the Bill of Rights in the first ten amendments, the trial by jury is mentioned twice.

It predated the Magna Carta in terms of the establishment of citizens’ rights. Might doesn’t make right. The king doesn’t just get to do whatever he wants to do. We have inalienable rights, God-given rights that we should be respected as individuals. It goes back to the Constitutions of Clarendon back in the 1100s. This has been an ongoing project for over 800 years now to give people rights to self-government to take care of themselves, their families and their communities and to hold power to account what are the hours of government or a large corporation.

A lot of those principles come from a notable author at the time too, John Lott. He wrote about these inalienable rights. It’s been a few years. When you were talking, that sounds like John walking in his thoughts and his process.

Much came from that school of thought informed by the enlightenment. The right to trial by jury has been under attack now in this country for at least 40 years. It’s been a very sustained PR effort to make it seem like it’s a bad thing to hold someone accountable in court. You hear terms like frivolous lawsuits, jackpot justice. Many millions of dollars had been spent teaching people those words so that you can think ill of someone who’s going to hold someone accountable. What you have to remember is they’re not doing something wrong. Something wrong has been done to them. They’ve been harmed. They’re now responding to that cost that’s been imposed upon them.

One of the biggest examples I still see in the general public is the hot coffee example. People mock this lady millions of dollars. She spilled coffee on herself. That’s ridiculous. That basic rendition is generally what you’ll hear from 90% of people who will talk to you about it. It’s so far from any truths or facts that came up. If you have any questions, the first thing I would say is to go watch the documentary a few years ago. It is a good film, regardless if you have a mindset one way or the other. Nothing else is a great examination of, “Here are the real facts and defenses. Here’s the PR campaign.” They’re two different things. 

It’s the real facts of the case. The lady who was burned and had third-degree burns in her genital region.

It tore the skin of her inner thighs and everywhere else.

McDonald’s had the knowledge that they were serving extremely hot coffee.

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It had hundreds of complaints.

When that happens, when you’re dealing with a company that large, the language they speak is plenty. The only way that you’re going to be able to communicate with them is to impose costs back on them. We all understand this, even our parents. If you’re trying to train your kid to be a productive citizen in the world, you have to show them the consequences of their actions. If you don’t, they become little monsters. That’s the way it works.

They turn into big monsters. I’ve got a mixture of that going in my house, although they’re all free to camp right now. We’re on easy street. They’ll be gone for about ten days. We don’t get them until August 4th. It’s almost a month. It’s two days short of a month. I went ahead and checked for it. It’s a good experience. It’s an important experience, particularly we don’t live in the biggest cities, but we live in a city. It’s a great experience to get up there on the river and work on riflery and archery, outdoor skills and appreciate the world that we live. I take it for granted all the time. You probably did too.

I did that as a kid. I was thinking about it. I learned how to shoot well, scuba dive, operate heavy equipment. I love horses. I learned how to ride. You learn about yourself. Get away from your parents.

It’s an experience that I’m jealous of. I didn’t know that these places even exist. When I was a kid, we walked down to the bay and fish, which I’m not complaining. You go up there though and you get on that winding road by the river and get up there and pull into the camp. I’m feeling my own blood pressure go down. Bring some beer and come hang out for a week. It’s good for them. You’re at Austin in Texas Watch and you live there in Austin.

I’ve been in Austin for a few years now. I’m from Fort Worth originally. I went to undergrad in California and came back to UT for law school. I’m one of those people who stayed in Austin.

You’re a smart guy. I didn’t know anybody who gets into UT law school anymore.

My application might have fallen out of one pile into another pile. I enjoyed my time in California, but I wanted to come back to Texas so I kept my Texas residency. This is before tuition regulation. Boston was still pretty attainable at that point. I was a work-study kid in college so I was watching my money. There’s not a better deal than UT. It’s a great law school and at the time, affordable. I still think it’s a very good deal.

What are you teaching over there?

I teach a couple of different classes. I’m teaching the trial advocacy department. I’ve helped them with what they call their Fall Litigation Institute through the years. I call them kids because they’re in their early twenties and I’m in my 40s. I teach these young adults some good communication skills and how to start presenting the case. I’ve enjoyed that. They let me design a course. I liked that one. It’s called narrative and problem-solving. It’s very deep communication skills, a lot of psychology mixed into it as well. We get much deeper into how to communicate, how to solve your client’s story as authentically as possible and how to connect with people on a very human level. I tell them with this rise of machine learning these days, that skill, having a face-to-face conversation, that’s what’s still going to be there for people. I always tell them that the antidote to AI is EQ, emotional intelligence. It’s helping them develop those skills. A lot of schools in Texas do a great job with that. Baler has a wonderful child program. South Texas has some amazing child program. We’ve got a good program at UT as well. I teach some negotiation classes as well.

TBC 11 | Texas Watch
Texas Watch: Everything was about internal conflict and dealing with that. You’ve got to fight for your spot.

 

Are you teaching right now or are you coming back in the fall?

I’m off this fall semester but I’ll start in the next spring.

If you ever want an old lawyer to come and talk crazy shit to your class, call me. It would be fun.

I may be teaching a class this fall. I’ve got a good topic. I hope that we get to do that. It’s a lot of fun.

That’s how I regard my job a lot of times. When you mentioned the advanced problem-solving, you can put a label on an attorney, lawyer or whatever. People don’t call me on their best day. You all came in and we’ve been cutting up. Most people who come in got a problem. Oftentimes, it’s a serious problem. It’s oftentimes something they probably would have been well-advised to come in three months before. I try in-depth early on to get with folks. I’m not worried about if they’re paying me or not paying me. Let’s identify the problem and the best options and solutions. That may involve legal counsel or not. Sometimes the best thing is, “Here’s what you need to do. Here’s how to do it.” You need to exercise this stuff out. I send people on the self-help exercise probably 40% of the time.

In my practice, it was exactly the same way. If it’s a problem that they can solve themselves and they can get there, do that.

More importantly, if you take these reasonable steps we mapped out and it still goes poorly for you, come call me and I’ll help you. I’ll have a lot more to work with. I don’t want you to have this problem, but if it still persists after you act reasonably, I’ve got a good case, regardless of what the underlying issue is.

You and I both work on holding insurance companies accountable. There was a practice that some insurance companies engage in, sometimes called delay, deny. It’s basically, “See if you can outwait or outlast or grind up the guy and they’ll go away.” You try to work with them every which way. You’ve already paid them your money and your premiums and you’re expecting help in your time of need. I was exactly the same way. Send them the letter if they need to come out and re-inspect. If you do that for six months and you still have a hole in your roof and you’ve got buckets in your kitchen, it’s time to hold the employee accountable.

It never was easy but it’s not getting any easier.

The insurance companies have a huge lobby in Austin. They are very persistent. One of the things we do in Texas Watch is we fight back against them.

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How do you all do that?

We exist to educate and engage the public and to fight for their own rights. That’s the role that we play because the stuff is complicated. People are busy. They have lives to live. They can’t think about this all day long, “What’s going on in Austin? How does that affect me?” They don’t think about it until they have the hole in the roof or they have a loved one in the ER and things are going badly. We communicate with the public on a regular basis. We try to take very complex matters. We’re not simplifying it. It’s distilling it, pulling out the most important stuff that matters to them and helping them understand, “This is happening right now. This is how you can communicate your interests,” because there are lots of special interested in Austin who spend millions of dollars to communicate their interests. We try to get people connected with their lawmakers, connect with the media as well to get the information out.

Are you telling everybody that Texas Watch is a consumer advocacy group?

We exist to fight for consumers, families, patients and policyholders.

Does Texas Watch ever take on the individual calls of any particular folks like if you file lawsuits?

We don’t do that. We work more at the policy level at the legislature. Those individual stories are so important to take this big legal issue, this big public policy issue and to make it real. We help people tell their stories as well. We get them to Austin. We were talking about the legislative committee process and how involved that can be. That can be a scary process for people who don’t think about that. We help get them to Austin, help prepare them to where they can communicate what’s happened to them in an efficient and effective way.

Did you say the organization is bipartisan or nonpartisan? I can’t remember exactly.

We’re nonpartisan. We have no party affiliation at all. Read the comments on our Facebook page and you’ll see that the people that care about the issues that we’re working on have wildly divergent partisan and political. Some people love the president. Some people hate the president. They all know that insurance companies are hurting them right now. It works like that.

You mentioned the Facebook page. If someone wanted to find out more about Texas Watch, where do they find you?

We try to be everywhere. The main site is our website, which is www.TexasWatch.org. We’re on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. We have a podcast as well, which you can find everywhere that you find your podcasts. We do a lot these days on those digital channels because that’s where people are receiving their information. We try to communicate through traditional media as well. That’s very important. We fully support the media’s rights. We’ve taken it upon ourselves now to communicate directly with the public through these digital platforms. They have their pluses and minuses, but the pluses are huge these days. You’re talking to people in eight or nine countries, which is pretty amazing.

TBC 11 | Texas Watch
Texas Watch: Be who you are and what you think you are, but there are some genetic things that you can’t deny.

 

We got a letter from our oldest son. He’s in whatever cabin he’s in. He wrote a pretty good letter. I was so impressed by it. He’s thirteen. His cabin is an outdoorsman cabin, which I don’t think we’ve fully investigated and had an appreciation for what all that entail. The first example, when we got there and dropped them off, the counselor said, “Nice to meet you. We’re the outdoorsman cabin. If you all have any axes, machetes, handguns, lighters, other firearms or anything, we need to check it and make sure we don’t see it.” I thought my wife was going to fall over. I said, “He didn’t bring his guns or anything, but I’ve got a lighter. Here you go.” In the letter we got, he said they’re sleeping outside. He’s like, “I don’t have a hammock. Everybody else got a hammock. I’m sleeping on the ground and it’s not comfortable.” She was all in my ass to order him and get it shipped.”

He learned how to check his boots for scorpions.

I saw four text messages. It was coming through on my watch and I couldn’t read it. I’ve learned that after twenty years.

I met my wife in sophomore year of undergrad. You and I are about the same age.

I knew we were close in age. Did you graduate high school in ‘94? 

It’s in ‘95.

We were in the same school grade. We’re three months apart. How did you keep a place like Texas Watch going? There’s got to be some money that runs the place. How do you fund all those?

It’s a constant source of effort for us to keep Texas Watch in operation. We celebrated our twentieth year of operation, which is a pretty amazing feat. When I got into this work, there were several big organizations that were also working on these issues. Now we’re the only one that’s on our side of these issues. We’re the only group that works on taking on property casualty insurance companies for instance. Those other groups have made choices over the years that’s too hard to do. We’re investing resources. We’re not getting enough back from that. We’ve stayed in course. We welcome donations from anybody who wants to give to us. We work a lot on protecting our courts. Our folks who depend on the courts often care about the work that we’re doing and we’re very thankful for everybody who helps us.

In the insurance industry, it’s not one of your contributors.

I’m pretty sure they probably are on my email list because they want to keep track of what we’re doing. Some sessions, we pulled the filings. On one session, the insurance companies had hired over 1,000 lobbyists in Austin. I was one of the only ones on that issue that was working on behalf of the policyholders.

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I might have been there with you. That way we’re getting paid.

That was the session. It’s a big one. We’ve had a number of big insurance sessions. Three was a huge one. That was when the insurance companies have exploited a loophole in the insurance code. I know Jason is one of the best attorneys in the state in this area. The insurance code looks like four or five Bibles put together. The papers extend. I always tell people it’s this thick for a reason. A lot of insurance lobbyist spend a lot of money, lobbying through the years. They had done that. They were able to shift their business into an unregulated entity. That allowed them to raise rates and cut coverage as much as they wanted to. Insurance can do a lot. They pass it on to you and me.

That session was, in a large part, trying to lasso them and bring them back under oversight. This is not your average trial. This is not a television set. You could choose to have a television set or not have a television set. When you go into Best Buy, you can look at a wall of TVs and figure out which has the crispiest picture and the brightest picture. You can easily compare everything. This is a legal document that they wrote. They’ve tuned it up exactly the way they want to tune it up. You give them all this money upfront and hope you never have to use the product. When you have to use the product, things have gone bad for you. You’re under stress. It’s all set up in their favor.

The legal term is a contract of adhesion.

It’s an unconscionable contract.

Take it or leave it.

That session was a big fight, getting that back under some form of state oversight. I would like to see the department of insurance to be more aggressive there, but that’s not been the case over the years. That’s why we favor the courts. You can go lobbying legislators. You could take them out to state dinners and pretend like you’re their best friend. You can’t go lobbying a local jury, citizen jurors. They’re going to bring their life experience. When they sit in that box and evaluate the case, that’s the best lie detector that’s ever been devised in the history of mankind. It’s six or twelve people bringing their experience, listening very closely to the facts, weighing the evidence, figuring out who’s telling the truth, answering the charge or applying the facts to the law. You’ve got all these layers of safeguards. The jury gets it wrong. The trial judge gets it wrong. You got the Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court. It’s a very beautiful system that’s been designed to tease out the truth. That’s why it’s important that we protect it.

The only downside to it is that wheels of justice move so slow. That’s one of the challenges that I deal with clients. I tell them from the beginning, “You’re in business. You’ve got jobs. There’s a normal course of things to how things work. This moves ten times slower.” It’s because of that teasing process. Everything you do is entitled to a response back. Everything the other side does is entitled to a response or a rebuttal back. It takes time, particularly when you have people working the cogs of that system, your judges, your lawyers, that’s not the only thing they’re doing. It takes litigation particularly. It takes time, even stuff that’s relatively simple. We have Josh.

If you’re a bourbon fan, the Bourbon Trail is the wine country for people who love Bourbon.

You go to Kentucky. Didn’t one of these places burned down or had a big fire?

TBC 11 | Texas Watch
Texas Watch: As a lawyer, you can’t support big beer when they’re slamming so much negative legislation through the state of Texas.

 

There was a very big fire. They’re the largest bourbon distributor in the entire world. They lost 300,000 barrels. It was their undistilled product. They said it wouldn’t even mess with their production. They represented less than 1% of their total profits.

They’re going strong. I’m not drinking too much. It always seemed to encourage my body. How did you get hooked up with these two clowns? 

Jacob and I were on the same high school wrestling team in Beaumont, Texas. I started a year before he did. We were under the tutelage of a phenomenal human being. His name is Phil Hemmings. He started the wrestling program for the entire city of Beaumont. Beaumont did not have a wrestling program at all. He taught French and English. I was in his class. I was the very first person to sign his petition to the school. He started the petition and ran the entire process. He got the funding for. It changed and still continues to change a lot of kids’ lives. I didn’t like single sports. I didn’t like football very much at the time. I wasn’t a very big guy. I had a little bit of soccer load across the country but never excelled in any of those things. I was aggressive. I already had the military man track. He created an outlet for that. The Renaissance man changed all of our lives.

Is he still at Westbrook?

He finished at Westbrook. He retired because his youngest son left Westbrook. He’s going off to college. He said that he would do it until his son graduates. He retired. I think he’s in real estate with his wife.

I respect people who engage in competitive wrestling. That’s a lot of work. To be even moderately competitive is a ton of work.

It’s you and one other person out there with both of your teams staring directly at you. If you don’t make weight, you don’t wrestle. Even if you don’t like weight, you have to sit in this chair. They call your opponent up and give them the points in front of both teams. You’ve got to sit there. You’ve got to make weight. There’s no messing around. You fight for your spot. They are 365-pounders. One is going all the way. One is going to wrestle JV and the other one’s going to sit there. Everything was about internal conflict and dealing with that. It’s still to this day.

It’s probably served you well in life. I don’t mean just physically. It’s discipline.

It taught me teamwork but also a lot of discipline. You get slammed on an entire match where you’re dominated by this person. It’s an unbelievable check. It’s a check and you either got to get back up and do it again or realize you’re not meant for the team. The attrition rate was insane.

No one likes getting their ass kicked. We’ve all had our ass kicked.

I like getting punched in the face.

I don’t enjoy it. I never liked getting punched in the face, but it didn’t bother me. If you hit me, you might piss me off. We get a little older and I’m scared of getting hit in the head. I’ve taken all the shots I probably need to. I probably don’t dare to get hit in the head. I’m still willing to fight Ramsey.

He got to get that note.

We had Cody Williams on. He broke Ramsey’s nose. We spend about five minutes on this podcast episode talking shit about Ramsey and how he is going down.

I’ve had that surgery too. I had 5% breathing on one side and zero on the other and I was mouth breathing. I got it all fixed. I had to find ways and talk to people and not make it obvious that I’m breathing through my mouth the entire time. I’m a little cautious.

You started fighting competitively later after this fight. 

I did wrestling. I joined the service, do combative in the military.

What branch are we in?

I was in the Army. As soon as I got out, there was a hole in my life. I was addicted to the adrenaline combat and all that and battling a lot of internal demons. It’s all gone. The brotherhood and also the weapon fire, the late nights, all of the craziness that comes along living in the military. In a very short order, I started working at a federal prison. I bought a motorcycle. I got my skydiving license and started fighting in a cage. I was doing everything that I could possibly do to try to find that.

Are you still fighting?

I’m not fighting anymore. I stepped away from it. I’ve had some health problems. The back started to give out a little bit. My hip is constantly bothering me. I took some time away.

When you play wrestling and grappling, that’s going to happen.

I still drink.

It takes it to another level. People don’t realize. That’s intense. I have more respect for fighters. My true love sports-wise is boxing. I grew up watching boxing. I admired boxers. My dad had boxed in golden gloves. He boxed in the Army. He tried to get me to start doing that and started training me a little bit in the house. I had the heavy bag, the speed bag and the mitts. He’d made me run. Within a few months, I started playing peewee football, probably in fifth or sixth grade. I liked the physical nature of that too. I pretty quickly said, “I’m going to play football. It’s a lot easier.” That boxing workout is no joke. We were talking about me losing some weight. If you saw me, I probably look a lot different.

You look like a different person.

I still got work to do but I’m good. I can do a lot more now. If I ever want to be taking the dirt, I’d do boxing and work it up, just a basic one-hour and I’m dead. A quarter of it, I’m half-assed. It’s so much. It’s some warm-up. We do three-minute rounds of jumping rope. We’re getting warmed up.

You’re going to have to do that consistently. Even in high school, we will have end-season football players as football season whipped in. We still had two or three months of competition. We would have football players. We’re a great team. He’s got to show up, thinking that they were just going to join the wrestling team. The coaches were like, “Take it easy.” More often than not, I’d say about 90%.

It’s a different game. It’s so much work. You’ve got to be all in. I respect people who do that. You’ve got to be a little off for you to wear if you’re going to run a consumer advocacy group as a lawyer. There are so many other things you could do, but you’ve got to want to do that. That’s a challenge. You walk through that capitol, working on this policy that we’ve talked about. There are many times that everybody in the building is shooting at you, the elected officials, lobbyists and all that. You’re there on your own. It’s similar to fighting. I have nothing but respect for people who do that. It takes dedication. People are fast to say, “This guy is a scrub,” even the guys who aren’t household made. Those guys put in so much work.

If you think the UFC is great, and I have nothing against them, go and watch some of these other professional fighting organizations. They say that half of the best people and talent in sports never make it to the top. Most of the best basketball players aren’t playing in the NBA. It’s the same concept with all of this.

It’s more than that.

What’s the league in Louisiana that came through? They made a movie about it. He ended up moving to through Legacy as well.

The UFC picks up a lot of Legacy guys.

They bought everybody they could buy and they’ve just moved on because there’s such a name. They don’t have to put that big money for it anymore. They bought a guy that was probably the tip-top. That was their only enormous competitor.

They can just snipe people.

It’s growing on me a little bit. I’m such a boxing fan.

I hear a lot that the UFC has ruined boxing or has taken over boxing.

I disagree.

That’s what I was going to ask.

There are parts of the UFC that I like. I like all the discipline in the work and the martial arts mindset that many of the men have and women. I don’t particularly like to see the women fighting. I’m getting over that a little bit. It’s more than anything how I was ingrained when I was learning to fight and things like that. You don’t hit women. I get it. I’m fine with it. At first, it seems so unnatural. It’s almost a subconscious feeling I get. I don’t want to see a woman get hit in the face by anybody, even if it’s another woman. I don’t like to see it.

I was watching an interview with Ronda Rousey. I’m thinking about that fight with Holly Holm when she kicked her in the face.

That hurt me. Holly Holm is a world kickboxing champion and boxing champion.

She’s a bad woman.

We have this little poster too. We have the mindset that you’re talking about. Men don’t play that rule traditionally in our society. We have a bit of confusion with the transgender crossover. Which division should they be in? Is this a male or a female?

I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s BS.

I don’t believe that male-turned-female has any business in any sport competing.

Here’s the deal. I’m all freedom of rights. Be who you are and what you think you are. I have no issue with that, but there are some genetic things that you can’t deny. I am physically stronger than 98% of the women on Earth or maybe even more. It’s not because I’m some strong guy because I’m not. I’m an average dude. We’re built that way.

These guys would kill themselves on that thing and use body strength and bone density to complete. All that makes sense. We’ve moved into a bit of the identity politics. It’s confusing that issue. I was in Thailand doing some lieutenant training. I went to the motherland. I had to go. It’s checking trees unfortunately. It’s a stupid thing to do. It’s peer pressure stuff. I went to a lot of new type of fights. It’s a very spiritual experience. They take this hard very seriously. Before every fight, there’s a very traditional entrance, very traditional music and dance.

It’s a whole show. I’ve never seen it.

It’s fantastic. They even have these bins that, in between the rounds, they put underneath where the fighters sit and wash them off. All that liquid goes down into the bin and they take some of that sweat and blood and throw it back on. It’s very much a ritual. The men and women are a different thing. The women come out. They do a different dance. They get a bouquet of flowers. We are in Bangkok watching these super fights. One of the premier fights is a transgender male to female. They have their opposite view on it than we have. They also believe that a male, no matter what you identify as, has no business fighting in sports with a female. They have the most transgendered of any culture in the world. I’m very respectful of it. I watched a male to female transgender woman kickbox a man with full makeup, hair back, long hair. I had that feeling like you were talking about. This is a bit strange to me. As soon and she threw a two-piece and then kicked him and it hit him, it was like, “This is it.”

I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is if she is fighting women.

She would have wretched. She was awesome.

Why do they have such a high transgender population in Thailand? Is there any scientific reason?

From what I got, there were several factors. The influx population of people who travel there is extremely large. They’re median income is very low. A lot of what they do in the Philippines, Thailand and a lot of these different Southeast Asian countries is sending workers to other places to make US dollar. There’s a very large influx of white people. A lot of the Thai women are specifically after white people, they’re after white men. When they’re after people that are not of their own culture, it became counter-culture for the men to start being with other men. They’re already pretty effeminate, smaller people, that it became counter-culture. Once it took off, it became even more popular for women. I’m not missing with Thailand at all. It snowballed. Now they’re super accepting but very weird with each other.

Is that consistent throughout Bangkok or the whole country? Is it more common in Bangkok?

It was more common in Bangkok. It’s one of the social centers. You can break down three different countries. It’s Northern Thailand, Shanghai. It’s a little older feel. Southern Thailand was very beachy and super traveled as well. It was more prevalent in Bangkok but also very much in the south. I didn’t experience as much of it.

How long were you there?

I was there in Thailand for a month and a half. This was in 2017. It was right before I saw you last in 2018. I just got back. I was over in Southeast Asia in Thailand.

Where else did you go other than Thailand?

We started in Bali and then Jakarta, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

What was your favorite one? Did you see with Cambodia?

Cambodia was insane.

I’ve got a friend from Cambodia. His name is Ling Ten. He’s the coolest dude. I call him the Cambodian Godfather because he knows every Cambodian, American or immigrant. In the State of Texas, they know Ling Ten. He and his family have a bunch of liquor stores all around East Texas. He’s a super cool guy. He’s always trying to get the guts to go. He’s like, “I will go. My uncle’s a general.” I don’t know if I’m going to go to Ling Ten in Cambodia. We went to Chicago once together. The last time he brought me the “I love Cambodia” shirt like, “I love New York.” It’s like a medium. His label is 2x but it’s a medium. It was a Cambodian extra-large. It’s small. I gave it to my daughter who’s 5’1, 110 pounds. I appreciate the thought.

Cambodia was the welcomest. It was one of my favorites. The outdoor life was incredible. Did you do dirt-biking?

No.

It’s one of the dirt-biking meccas in the world. I didn’t know this until a week on.

Is it a motorbike?

It’s a motorbike. For my birthday, I did a 24-hour motocross event with a private driver. It’s just me and this guy. We went out and saw temples that you can’t get to unless you’re on a dirt bike. We’re doing this crazy stuff out there. Everything in that country was as deregulated as possible. It was very strange that were awesome, happy people. I learned an interesting fact in Cambodia. A heavy pizza and happy bar mean something different there than it does in Thailand. If you go to Thailand and you walk inside of a happy bar or happy cafe, you’re going to get a blowjob. If you go inside of a happy bar in Cambodia, you’re going to get weed in your food. You order a milkshake and they put cash in this milkshake.

Is that telling you?

They asked you if you want a scoop or two scoops or whatever. They’ll put it in across the pizza or something like that. It’s a weird trip. You’ve got to take the Byrd Chronicles to Cambodia.

It makes me want to go a little bit. I’ve got a lot of acquaintances and friends. Probably a reasonably high percentage of my friends are from immigrant families. They’re first-generation or their parents immigrated here. It’s not on purpose. It’s just people that I’ve become friends with. I’m close enough where we can travel and everything. They tried to get me to go. What is this white trash kid in South Texas going to Cambodia? I’ve got one friend who’s trying to, for years, get me to Pakistan. I want to go but it makes me a little nervous. I’d be fine with him and his family but it still makes me a little nervous. It’s the language too. I’d feel better going somewhere if I spoke the language. Any Spanish-speaking country, I’m in. Let’s go. I’d go by myself.

How much Portuguese do you pick up knowing Spanish?

If I saw it on TV right now or you started speaking it, it’s not much. If I was around it for a few days, it’s probably quite a bit.

Is it pretty much the whole of South America?

Yeah. These dialects, there are some people who are harder to understand than others.

It’s just like here.

For example, there are guys speaking Spanglish in The Valley or even here that I have a harder time understanding than someone who just I met from Venezuela. It depends. A lot of it is education-based. There are some folks who aren’t as well-educated. We see in our culture a lot of street language. Some of the street languages, I knew a lot of it several years ago, but I’m not in it anymore. I could talk some of it, but I sound like an old man because it’s the street language several years ago. Written and reading and pure study type, I’m good. I can understand it. It’s a little hard on the phone.

You’re also using body language and all the rest of the context.

The phone is hard. It’s been so many years since I used it daily that it’s almost like I’ve got to warm up. I’ve got to start thinking in the other language. If I think in Spanish, I’m good but I can’t just go back and forth anymore. I used to when I was probably seventeen. I could go back and even say something in Spanish, English or whatever. I’m good. Now I’ll have to stop and switch gears.

Neurologically, you’ve got two different parts of your brain that were language. Especially when you’re young, you use this a lot more superficial, more flexible section. As you get older, it falls into this deeper pattern.

I tried to teach my kids Spanish.

It’s tongue formations and mouths of cheek and all.

I tried to teach them. I had this feeling a few years ago, “Here’s the deal. We start in January. We’re on Spanish Thursday.” He said, “What’s Spanish Thursday?” “On Thursdays, you talk to me. To deal with me, it’s all in Spanish.” On Thursdays, I’d see him in the morning. I would only talk to him in Spanish.

I don’t know the word for pancakes.

I would try to explain it to them in Spanish. It was awful.

They’re sitting there with Google translate.

They’re eleven, thirteen and sixteen now. They were seven, eleven and thirteen. They didn’t quite appreciate it. When they were young, they understood it a little better like babies, infants and toddlers.

Are they not to the point where they’re taking it at school yet?

They’re taking it in school.

They’re preparing you for test-taking.

I don’t know. I tell them they’re not as smart as their dad. They’re bright kids. We all have different interests. One way that I got good is when I was a teenager. I knew enough. I learn a little bit at school. I enhanced it. When I was driving, I’d turn on English-speaking radio when I was in the car by myself. I would sing the song in Spanish. I would translate it. That’s not easy. It’s not word for word. You have to change expressions. You have to get to where you’re thinking on your feet. I don’t know why I did it. I started doing it. That exercise got me proficient in a short time. I knew it. It’s just putting it all together. I’d recommend that if you’re ever trying to learn a language.

That’s smart. Music connects in another language.

I would dream in Spanish but that was a long time ago. I live close to the border. We go to Mexico.

You’ve got to use it a lot.

I talk to the senoritas and what not. I had more vodka creation I’ve made. It’s delicious. I’m calling it a Vicki Collins. 

Do you have a signature cocktail?

I’m sure there’s a name for this. It’s not that extravagant. It’s vodka with a little bit of Sprite and a dash of pineapple juice. It’s delicious.

It’s the Byrd of Paradise.

That’s that yoga move I was telling you about. It’s impossible. I started doing some yoga. I can hang for the most part, but it’s hard for me. I’m built like a tomato soup can. Yoga is not what you’re going to think of when you see me. There are these ladies in my class. I think they’re made out of rubber trees. They’ve got this move they’ve been doing. It’s this Bird of Paradise. It’s ridiculous. I don’t even know how to explain it. They’re standing on one leg, all flipped around. It starts out on the ground. They end up standing up all on one leg. It was the whole twisting part to get there that I don’t understand. I know that you got hooked up with Jacob. Is that how you got hooked up with him? I’m glad you both were here. We ran all over the place.

This was a surprise and a treat for me.

You were sitting here. I want to talk to you. Maybe we’ll have an episode where we have one of you on or two, we’ll do it again because I’m having fun. What if you want to find out more about Texas Watch?

Go to TexasWatch.org. Look at stuff on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. We have a podcast as well called Texas Tells. You can get all your information there. Josh has a restaurant in Austin, which is the best restaurant in Austin. It’s not just me saying.

Is it The Brewer’s Table?

Yes.

Let’s talk about The Brewer’s Table. I didn’t realize you had a restaurant. 

I’m a partner at a restaurant on the east side of Boston. It was the initial investment program. Now, I run peer support for The Brewer’s Table. I try to keep the staff happy and if they need help finding a counselor or if they want to be back in school or whatever that looks like. I have to help facilitate that process. It’s a fantastic spot. We grew all of our own beer. It’s a very interesting concept as far as the beer and the food goes. It touches a fire in some way, whether it’s smoked or fired at the end. We’ve got a beautiful fermentation program. It’s big open space. We’re doing a guest barbecue every single weekend through the month of September. If you want to come out and try to get some barbecue from all over the state, you can come out. We have a good time.

Where do you find The Brewer’s Table?

You find The Brewer’s Table at TheBrewersTable.com. You can find us on Instagram, @TheBrewersTable. In Facebook, it’s all the same. You can come by and see us on East 5th Street.

Do you all have a Miller Lite?

We do not have. As a lawyer, you have to appreciate we can’t support big beer when they’re slamming so much negative legislation through the State of Texas.

I’m cool with it but it’s like, “I want a Miller Lite.” Most places I go, I say, “We’ll just find what’s closest to it.”

I’ll find you a beverage.

Check out The Brewer’s Table and Texas Watch. Thanks. We’ll do it again soon.

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About Ware Wendell

TBC 11 | Texas WatchWare leads all phases of Texas Watch. He first began working for the organization in 2003 and has been privileged to serve the organization in multiple capacities through the years.

As Texas Watch’s spokesperson, he is dedicated to giving voice to the need for public safety and full accountability through our civil justice system. In the face of a sustained assault on our life and liberty by corporate lobbyists, he stands for the preservation of individual constitutional rights, specifically the right to trial by jury enshrined in the Seventh Amendment to our Constitution. He has been quoted in leading media outlets on issues important to consumers and working families. Ware monitors legal developments that impact Texans and helps craft policy proposals that focus on fulfilling the promise of “liberty and justice for all.”

Ware has served as the Legislative Aide to a senior member of the Texas House and Chief of Staff in the Texas Senate, enabling him to work on legislation of statewide importance and giving him insights into the workings of the Texas Capitol. He has testified before legislative committees and state agencies more times than he can count.

He holds a degree in Political Science with departmental honors from Stanford University, where he was the recipient of the Thomas Barclay Endowed Scholarship. He is also a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, where he was the recipient of the Albert P. Jones Endowed Scholarship, and has taught as an adjunct professor at the law school for eight years. He has twice been named a Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star and is listed among the Best Attorneys of America. He served as a voice for policyholders at the national level as a consumer liaison to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and fought for the rights of Texas homeowners on a statewide task force on residential arbitration.

Ware and his wife have one daughter. When he finds free time, he makes music.

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