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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, June 24, 2016

I am declaring Paul Simon's "Wristband" my personal hit single of the summer. As ever the criteria for this designation are fluid, but if I am in a car when the song comes on and I say, "Hey, turn it up," that is a leading indicator

As an American I have lived my life as part of an ongoing social science experiment. That's what the (old, white) men who wrote our Constitution were doing-- they were concocting a system from a set of abstract ideas. Other countries have since done the same thing, of course, but until the European Union all of these concoctions have endured with or as a result of horrifying violence and the loss of life. The EU, imperfect though it is, has been different, and I am very disappointed that a majority of British voters have decided that they no longer want to be a part of this remarkable thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It now appears that Omar Mateen, the Orlando mass murderer, was mostly a deranged person, and not so much a terrorist in the political sense. The reason this makes a difference is that it goes to what sorts of legislative measures might operate to prevent or make more uncommon this sort of crime. The legislation that the Senate voted down the other day was focused on screening, and frankly that does not get it done. As I have mentioned here before, last year I had a student in my law school class who went home one day, shot his parents, and was then shot and killed himself in a firefight with the police. Of course nobody saw this coming, and as it happens that includes a faculty member who is one of the leading forensic psychologists in the country. Screening laws aren't going to keep anyone from obtaining a firearm, because they presume an insight into the consciousness of the individual that is impossible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Years ago, when I was practicing in the Bronx more or less daily I used to regularly have dreams in which Roy Cohn was a frequent character. I really don't know to this day how Cohn took up residence in my subconscious, but there he was, seldom a lead character, but always in the background. I researched him, trying to figure out where he'd gotten in-- as it happened the Bronx is one of those places where there is seldom as much as three degrees of separation. Remo Acito, for whom I worked at the time, told me once that he'd done some small favor for Cohn, appearing in court to seek an adjournment, or some such, maybe in connection with the Lionel Train case? Cohn, as was his way, had tried to return the favor, but Remo declined- "I thought it was best to stay away from it," he said, and of course he was right.

And now he is back, although I suppose he never really left. Naturally he represented Donald Trump- the two belong together, like apple pie and ice cream. Now that the commentators have gotten their minds around the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee it has become fashionable to speak of him as the inevitable culmination of something or other. Lots of people think Trump is the end result of Nixon's Southern Strategy, for example, and certainly that racial demagoguery is part of what I think is going on here-- but I think it goes deeper. Cohn embodied a peculiar dark side of American culture, probably extending back to Aaron Burr; the notion that in America any deal you can make is a deal you can profit from, and the best deal is the one where the other side takes all the risk. If that sounds familiar it's because you have been following this election. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

EGS advises that her commute is made more pleasant by listing to WFMU, and that is certainly a pleasure I have had when I've had a matter in the NYC metro area. A somewhat more arcane treat is typically only available to me when I am required to appear in Westchester. Phil Schaap hosts a morning program called Bird Filght on Columbia University's station, WKCR, that is devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, and it is an amazing thing to hear. Not infrequently Schaap will embark upon a long narrative-- so long, in fact, that he pauses from time to time to announce how long he has been monologuing-- before playing the Parker number or numbers he has been elucidating. He is an amazing raconteur, who seems to know where Parker was, who he was playing with, and what he was wearing on a day-to-day basis. Come to find out that he has found two disks worth of Parker out-takes from the Verve days, and I have to admit that's pretty exciting. Charlie Parker veneration is a peculiar subset of jazz connoisseurship, and I am probably never going to pop for something like the complete Benedetti recordings, but this sounds worth looking into.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Charley Pierce on the perils of an elected judiciary

I have resisted writing about the Orlando horror because I couldn't think of a way to really get a hold on it. It is such a perfect confluence of awful: two kinds of bigotry, access to automatic weapons, all of it. I think about the people who were vacationing with their families in Orlando, and what it must have been like for them-- and of course I think about the families of the victims, who will live with this for the rest of their lives. I tried to go to the vigil held here in Buffalo, in Niagara Square, but I couldn't stay; there was praying, and frankly praying is just about the last response that seems right to me. I am angry and sick, and I feel even worse knowing that this thing is being exploited politically by the sort of people that embody the worst of America, or, I suppose, of humanity. Even worse than that is the awareness that this changes nothing. In a week or two people will have moved on, because, I guess, that is a survival tactic we have evolved. If we remembered with vivid clarity every painful episode like this we might become like characters in a Beckett novel, unable to react to anything. So tortured, self-loathing people like this guy will still be able to get automatic weapons, and horrible United States Senators will express their hollow pieties, and loathsome human beings will say loathsome things about all of it, up to and including the character or nature of the victims.

So now I've said something, because that is a thing that I do.

Friday, June 10, 2016

To Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at Canalside last night, a terrific evening of soul that far exceeded my expectations- although not the expectations of the young hipsters who surround me. They knew all the words, and good for them. I'm happy to have caught up with this artist, who has great presence, great moves, great material and a great band. If I might allow myself one minor note of criticism it would be this: Mr. Bradley doesn't need to use quite that much of James Brown's shtick. It was, I think, mostly new to the kids in the audience, and he carried it off with aplomb, but he is good enough on his own to not need it-- itself an accomplishment.

See him. I'd see him again in a minute.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

It seems important to me to note that Hillary Clinton has done something that no woman has ever done before. We'd be remarking on the historic nature of her accomplishment a lot more if it had happened eight years ago; it is still a great achievement, and no less so because she has been so despicably and unjustifiably maligned over the entirety of her public life .

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