Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
visit superlawyers.com

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez dead. The world just got a little less magical.

The case against my friend Lawrence Brose now moves into the sentencing phase, which means that it is far from over. This, in turn, means that Brose is still not really able to comment-- but I still can, and have, and will.

First of all, this piece by News 4 Buffalo reporter Elysia Rodriquez, is the most balanced and fair coverage the case has received anywhere. The appalling lynch mob reporting by the Buffalo News up to now was one of the reasons I became as involved in this matter as I did in the first place. With several others we determined that an informal 'truth squad' was necessary to counter the poison in the atmosphere.
 Second, what is the take-away from the plea? This is a complicated question, but anyone who thinks to ask it should know several things. Six years of a legal battle is nothing like an ordinary plea. The defense was pitched, and expensive. My estimate is that there was at least another year of expensive legal knife fighting to go before trial. What changed was that the US Attorney's office proposed a plea. This is rare. Typically DOJ will accept guilty pleas to the top count of the indictment-- the most serious charge. In this instance the charge was reduced, from 18 USC § 1466A Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, to18 USC § 1462- Obscenity. The superseding instrument referenced "viewing" a single image, instead 'possessing" over a thousand referenced in the original indictment. What happened? It seems pretty clear to me that the US Attorney's office acknowledged the weakness of its case, and that Lawrence, with some space between his back and the wall for the first time in six years, elected to move forward with his life, away from crippling legal fees and toxic accusations, and back to making art and being a positive force in the Western New York arts community. Trial lawyers all know that litigation is something that you do until the escalation reaches the point of irrationality. When a rational choice presents itself, rational persons accept it. This plea means that Lawrence will not be tagged as a sex offender (anyone who knows him will realize what a grotesque thing that would have been). The downside risk of sentencing is substantially mitigated, and as part of the agreement the prosecution has agreed that it will not oppose a "non-guidelines" sentence-- something that is even more unusual than an agreement to accept a plea to a reduced charge.

Finally, a thought about the process. One of the things that I've noticed as this matter ground on was how surprised many of Lawrence's friends were by the grueling quality of a criminal prosecution. The right against self-incrimination means that a defendant has to expect that anything he says to anyone turns that person into a potential witness in the case against him, and as a result the very people one might turn to for emotional support are effectively pushed away at the exact moment when sharing a confidence in exchange for emotional support is the most important thing in the life of the accused. It is alienating, and exhausting, and isolating; and the prosecution knows this and exploits it. The people who have stood with Lawrence have my respect-- it isn't easy to take a thing like this on faith. It is particularly difficult, I think, when the process is so unfamiliar. We think we know about how the criminal justice system works, but a case like this takes a lot longer than 43 minutes with time out for commercials. The prosecution of Lawrence Brose is being carried out in our name-- it is literally The United States of America vs. Lawrence Brose. The most powerful nation in the world against a solitary artist, possessed of pretty much all of the resources that you'd expect an experimental filmmaker would have. We should, as a community, be better aware of the other things that are being done in our name, and we ought to be calling for greater accountability and transparency.

I suppose one of the points of having a Hall of Fame is so that people can have discussions about who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. (Discussions about whether there should even be a Hall of Fame seem to be largely confined to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) Something about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that has bugged me for a while is why Bob Welch was not inducted with Fleetwood Mac. All of the other members of the band were inducted-- but Welch, who was the guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the band in the period when it transitioned from Brit Blues to LA Pop was locked out. Are the four sides the band recorded with Welch their best work? I'd say Future Games, Bare Trees, PenguinMystery to Me, and Heros Are hard to Find are an important piece of the band's output. Christgau gives Games, Trees, Penguin and Mystery each a B+, which seems fair. Heros gets a B-, and I'd say that's about right as well. (It was, however, their first US Top 40 album.) Back then every hip dorm room had a copy of at least one of these: usually Bare Trees or Mystery to Me. It is certainly worth noting that the band kept rolling during this period-- the personnel changes that it went through would have scuttled most other acts. (It was a good time for bands like this, which were allowed to keep making records even without scoring a major hit. As with movies the age of the blockbuster would soon arrive. Ironically, the Mac would be one of the acts that brought about the demise of the mid-list band.) When Welch left the band they were on strong enough terms that Fleetwood, Chrisine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham played on the re-make of "Sentimental Lady" in 1974. Per Wikipedia, in 1978, Welch, Fleetwood and the McVies had signed a contract with Warner Bros. agreeing to an equal share of all royalties from their Fleetwood Mac albums. Welch alleged that the other three  had subsequently struck various deals with Warner Bros. that gave them higher royalty rates, and had failed to inform him of the new, higher royalty rate, thus depriving him of his fair share of royalties. He sued, and the matter was ultimately settled, but during the pendency of the law suit he wasn't in direct communication with Fleetwood. In other words, an important member of one of the most disfunctional bands in the world got screwed over for an honor because he was getting screwed over on his royalties.

It would be fun to locate the court file on Welch v. Fleetwood, and it would be even more fun to put together a casebook for a class on Rock and Roll Litigation. The nitty-gritty of how bands are organized and managed is something I'd love to devote some time to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's better to bend than to break. Everything I have written about the prosecution of Lawrence Brose is still true, including the fact that the images the government went looking for on his computer were never found. Today he entered a plead to the lesser charge of Obscenity-- 18 USC § 1462. It was the smart thing to do-- the essentially limitless resources of the US Attorney's Office had made fighting any longer an impossibility. His Legal Defense Fund can be accessed here. It is a sad commentary that the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York sees fit to target artists. It's all done in our name, and that's why it's important to pay attention.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To the Show Me State over the weekend to visit the Smarts. Cape Girardeau, on the banks of the Mississippi, is home to South East Missouri State, where Mrs. Smart, as I may have mentioned, is employed as a librarian. It's a quaint little town, population a hair shy of 30k.
There isn't much else around, so the university and the federal district courthouse (named for Rush Limbaugh's father) make it a regional center. I like college campuses. All of them manage to have something special, and this one's claim on my attention is that it houses one of the largest collections of William Faulkner manuscripts and Faulkneria. Got to see his typewriter, which is pretty much exactly the kind of thing that I love to visit.

 We also got a bit of a hike in at Trail Of Tears State Park, along the ridge above the river. In addition to Southerners, Missouri is full of ticks, so we had to be careful to check ourselves and the dog afterwards to be sure that we didn't pick up any blood sucking pests. You can catch Republicanism that way, and the ticks are also vectors for disease.

Further notes. Man, there is more Ohio than anybody needs. The first time I saw a road sign for  Ashtabula the Dylanologist in me thrilled-- obscure place names are part of the fun of Dylan after all, and it's a little surprising that he hasn't name checked Cape Girardeau. Now Ashtabula is just a sign along the road that tells me I am further away from where I belong-- and closer to the real America that gives me the yips.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Frank Rich on Clinton sex scandals. Actually, on Bill Clinton sex scandals. 1992 was a long time ago, but few things have changed. Ol' Bill still makes Republicans froth at the mouth, and Hillary does too. For some reason these people seem to think that sex is the way to get other people to dislike the Clintons. Oh, and just for fun I went back and had a look at the 1992 Democratic Primary. You know, people act as though Hillary's talk of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was Easter Bunny stuff, but do the math. The Gennifer Flowers story was brought to us by Rupert Murdoch's Star Magazine. (Later, of course, CBS and the NYTimes had good fun with it, because Liberal Media.) Going into the convention the delegate count stood thus:
Now, think back. Do you recall Jerry Brown, or Paul Tsongas hammering, or even mentioning, O'l Bill's sexual adventuring? What about Pat Schroeder? No? Me neither. It's not that it was a non-issue: surrogates made references to it-- but for the most part the focus was on policy and "electability". My remark at the time was, "What I hate about Clinton is that in November I'll be voting for him."

I mention all of this now because it seems as though a dependable conservative tropism is to insist that something will work even after it has been conclusively established that it will not work, it has never worked, and it always ends badly. It's not just wars. It's climate science-- or the way they talk about science generally. Think about economic policy. Try this one one for size: every time the question of raising the minimum wage comes up conservatives howl that it will cause layoffs and unemployment. Of course it doesn't. So here we go again, the people who are always wrong about pretty much everything are going to talk about sex. The sex that Bill Clinton had, the sex that married gay people have, all the sex. Good luck with that.

Friday, April 04, 2014

When EGS was applying to grad schools one application (I forget which) asked her to list any patents that were in her name. Oh my god, the wailing. "I don't have any patents! Why didn't anyone tell me?" We all felt bad. Obvioulsy it had fallen to us to make sure she invented some stuff early in life, and we'd failed as parents.

A couple of nights ago I pushed the button on the range hood to turn off the fan-- and it didn't work. The fan kept whirring. The other buttons worked-- I could turn the light on and off, and I could make the fan louder and more annoying, but the Off button had quit.

Wednesday night, when I got back from class A said, "We have to call an electrician to fix that."
I said, no, I suspect that it is just gunked up with grease. I can fix that. She said, "Okay, fix it." So I took a screwdriver to the thing, and found that it was three parts. There was a brushed steel panel that was die cut for the buttons to poke through.There was a metal frame behind that which secured a black box to the hood itself, and the black box. The black box had five small rods coming out of five little holes. These were the buttons that protruded from the brushed steel panel, one for High, Medium, Low, Off and the light switch. Now I had a the brushed steel panel, the screws, the metal frame, and the black box, which was dangling from the hood, suspended by a bunch of wires. I pushed the button for High, and the button for Off sprang off and rolled under the table. They were, I now recognized, spring mounted, and unsecured to the black box now that I had removed the brushed steel cover. I retrieved the errant button from where it had rolled, and put it with its friends, the other bits and pieces. Then I looked  at the black box. It had screws as well, but it looked to me like those screws held the mysterious inner workings of the box in place. There did not appear to be a way to open it, and I realized that I had probably already done enough damage  by proceeding four screws into the demolition, so I decided to put it back the way I found it.

Of course, the entire apparatus was coated with a delicate patina of old grease, and I was operating on a wall mounted piece of equipment that was over the stove and over my head, so I couldn't really see what I was doing. I tried contorting myself, limbo-like, over the stove, but I couldn't get the angle right, so I fiddled around behind the hood trying to get the pieces to fit. Unfortunately, this seemed to have to involve turning the black box towards to floor, which made the buttons fall off. Also, I could not recall how the pieces had fit together. The frame thing and the brushed steel thing seemed like they should nestle together, but they wouldn't.

A, becoming exasperated with my growing exasperation, (chiefly manifested by increasingly loud swearing,) told me to step aside. She took the little rods that were the buttons and put them back in the holes where they lived. She pushed the Off button, and the other buttons flew across the room. I washed my hands and opened a beer. A retrieved the buttons and started trying to fit the frame thing and the brushed steel thing and the black box together. I took a sip of my beer. Things went on this way for a while, then we stuck the black box up into the works, covered it with the vents and went to bed.

 Yesterday the electrician came. He looked at the little black box. He took one of the buttons and put it in the hole for Off. Then he put the other buttons in their holes. Then he pushed the Off button. Then the buttons flew out at him.

 It appears that it may be broke for good. So perhaps Emily should have invented a better range hood. Or perhaps the fact that she did not is due to genetics.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Lot of Dylan content lately. Better lawyer it up a little: TV Lawyer Ads. The weird thing is, they work. Some years back our office manager's brother was injured in an accident. The family sat around the kitchen table, and had this conversation:

Tony: I guess I need a lawyer.
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work
Tony's Younger Sister: You need to get a lawyer!
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work
Tony's Younger Sister's Husband: What about those guys on TV?
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work.
Tony: How about these guys, on the back of the Yellow Pages?
Tony's Younger Sister's Husband: Those guys look good.
Tony's Younger Sister: You should call those guys!
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work.
Tony: I wish we knew a lawyer!

In a related point, this is pretty much why McCutcheon v. FEC is such a catastrophe. Expecting critical thinking from people in the face of media bombardment is pretty hopeless, but when choosing a lawyer, or a hamburger, or a terrible mass-brewed beer the harm is more or less limited to the person who has made the poor choice. In a democracy, however, there are quite a few people who are prepared to believe that the government shouldn't be able to make you have health insurance, or that climate change is made up because it snows, or whatever. In other contexts these people are called chumps, or marks, and for all I know that's what Reince Priebus does call them-- Mitt Romney very nearly said it aloud.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jonathan Lethem's liner notes for the Dylan in the 8os collection.As I write this I am revisiting Infidels, which is arguably the most solid set of Dylan's work from this period. I actually quit Team Bob with Street Legal in 1978, and didn't come back until 1991's Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3. What I have found in the years since is that Dylan rewards returning. Consider the most recent addition to the Bootleg series: Self Portrait suffers from many of the same faults as the 80's work, without the religion. The production is dreadful, the material is spotty, and it all seems kind of thrown against the wall. And yet-- as Another Self Portrait shows us, it might not be as bad as we thought. Right now my favorite Dylan set is Bootleg Vol. 8- Tell-Tale Signs, which is almost like putting on a pair of jeans and finding a $20 bill in the pocket. All of a sudden you have something nice you weren't expecting at all.

Cover sets like this help to make us recognize how complete a songwriter ol' Bob is: sure, his lyrics are what gets singled out, but he writes great songs and too often the fact that his melodies are every bit as important as the words. 

One other point about Dylan in the 80's: often overlooked in this discussion are the two Traveling Wilburys' sets. Dylan kicks back on these, and sounds great. It may be that the real problem with the 80's sides was that his output exceeded the amount of quality material he had on hand.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?