Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, October 31, 2005

What the Supremes are giving out for Halloween this year. "Souter: Waxed Dental Floss."

Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood has been featuring a lot of Western New York spots lately, I think mostly submissions by Bruce Bilmes & Sue Boyle. Some I know, some I've only driven by-- subjects for future research on my part, I guess.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Because I want to have a complete set of law signs for doomed mayorial candidates our neighbors are now on notice of our support for Judy Einach.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Miers mop up. Bruce Reed gives us possible questions from the hearing we won't have ("Have you ever discussed Marbury v. Madison?"); back to the drawing board for Gary Trudeau.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"The Last Waltz" showed up at the top of the Netflix que, then in our mailbox. I must have put it on the list over the summer when I was reading the Neil Young bio. Was there ever an ugler bunch of guys? The Dead, I suppose. I'd have to say that I much prefer The Band's music-- in a lot of ways I think that they are the guys who are really writing about the "weird, old America" that Greil Marcus says Dylan is all about.

There's some terrific stuff in the movie-- I don't think I've seen it since I was an undergraduate, and I'd forgotten a lot of it. I'd forgotten how odd looking Joni Mitchell was, and how, on a stage full of people who were full of themselves, Neil Diamond could come off as the guy who was the most full of himself. Cool that Diamond dressed like the Jewish Elvis, too-- everyone else looks like they just got dressed to go down for the paper.

I'm sure there will be speculation about whether she jumped or was pushed, but from the little we know about her, it seems to me that Harriet Miers was at least lawyer enough to know when to walk away. This adminstration has not demonstrated any willingness to re-think or re-trench, and I doubt that that is what happened this time. The more likely explanation is that Ms. Miers took one for the team. I didn't like her for the Court because it seemed entirely reasonable to me that she was a crypto-strict constructionist nut-- Clarance Thomas in a skirt, (or size 6 shoes, if you prefer), but it also seemed to me that the mockery she was subjected to would have been pretty hard for anyone to take.

What'll we get now? That's easy: with Bush's base in an uproar, we will get something worse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

By Neddie Jingo makes the excellent point that the death of Rosa Parks reminds us once again that we are the grown-ups, that we are the ones who are running things now, and that we can't look to the morally heroic adults we looked up to when we were younger to fix things for us any more.

New Yorkers like to say that you know you are getting old when the cops start looking young.

Maybe it is my own advancing decrepitude, but cops have looked young to me for a while now. Also soldiers. Clinton and Bush always looked to me like the guys who were finishing college when we were starting high school-- one of those telescoping Ages of Man that are impossible chasms when we are one age, and cracks in the sidewalk when we look back over our shoulders. Neddie, baby, we've been running the show for a while now-- and doing a pretty poor job of it. Those cops, those soldiers? Their parents are our age. I mean, I know, I feel younger-- I have a daughter who is 12. But she's the baby in our family-- at the conference I attended last week there were people who were having their first children. My 12 year old will student teach those kids.

It goes by quick, and that fact may be one explanation for how we have let things get so out of hand. Hell, Bush is still looking to people his father's age to tell him what to do, and a fine bunch of evil answers he's been getting, too. Neddie, and the rest of us should know better-- I think we do know better-- but we aren't running things, and lots of people our age aren't even voting. They feel so disconnected that they just throw up their hands and say, in effect, "Let the grown-ups figure it out."

Neddie's piece ends on a note that gives me a shred of hope: as useless and venial as we have been, we may have produced children that are better than we are. That is the point of children, and just about the only thing about the senior Bush that makes me think that he may not be quite the useless pile of privilege that I have always loathed him for being is that I get the sense that he looks at his son and says, "How'd I go wrong with that boy?" We may be doing better. If I'm not mistaken, Neddie is a white guy, like me, one of those people that Robert Christgau says, "regret at whatever level of conscious intellection their complicity in an ideology of domination they're at least half ashamed of." I think it's some sort of sign of progress that his daughter can dress as Rosa Parks for her class presentation on a hero from history, a white girl dressing up as a civil rights hero, and not draw comment on the racial discrepancy. In the end, that's the point of the Civil Rights Movement, and twenty years from now, or fifty, or a hundred, my children's grandchildren, and Neddie's too will be giving classroom presentations about Rosa Parks. I'll betcha that as many then will be doing presentations about either George Bush as are doing William Henry Harrison today.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm not quite sure why, but I like Nashville. It is serious about its "Music City" reputation-- just like in LA, everybody here seems to be in or associated with the principle industry of the place, and since I like music a lot more than I like movies, this charms me here. It's okay to fess up and say that you're not that big into Country-- as long as you hedge a little, and add, "But of course, I love Johnny Cash". On my flight down I thought I'd get in the mood by setting my iPod to shuffle only Country, and I mentioned this at the reception. "I've got a lot of Laura Cantrell," I said. "She's from here, isn't she?" The lawyer who is hosting this conference said, "Why, this fellow here practices with her mother!" and introduced me. Come to find out that Laura Cantrell, who I sort of think of as a private star to my family is the daughter of two very prominent members of the legal community hereabouts: her mother, Rose P. Cantrell, was the first woman in the history of Davidson County to serve as a judge of a trial court of record in Davidson County, and her father, The Hon. Ben H. Cantrell is a highly respected appeals court judge. Around here they seem to think that it is pretty funny that Laura went to New York City to make it big in the music business, and you can kind of see their point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Among the many Myths of the Right, a sort of companion to the chimerical Liberal Media (the Liberal Media that includes warmonger Judith Miller, but I digress) is the notion that the Groves of Academy are filled with liberals eager to seduce young minds. Stupid John Tierney-- another voice from the liberal media-- wrote a column on this topic a few days ago that left me sputtering-- now EGA's advisor has a letter in the Times that nicely refutes Tierney's argument. I cannot say how delighted I am that EGA is gamboling in the grove with people like James M. Henle.

Monday, October 17, 2005

In the shower this morning my razor broke. The pivoting head came away from the part that clips onto the handle, and there I was, forced to hold the blade part between my fingers and shave by running the cartridge along my face. It was my travel razor, which is the same exact handle as I use at home, but I hate buying blades, which are expensive, and wear out quickly, so I don't carry extra blades. Since I use my travel razor only when I am traveling, I figure that I don't have to replace the blades all that often. I figure exposure to soap and shave cream and what all breaks down the plastic over time, and that's what happened. I knew I needed to buy blades, and I passed drugstores all day, but it wasn't until I was walking back to my hotel after dinner tonight that I remembered. There weren't any drugstores in view, so I went into one of those delis that sell porn and cigarettes and soda and newspapers. I looked around and then asked the guy behind the counter if they had razors. He reached for a packet of single edged, which was not what I was after, but then I spotted a rack of Gillette Sensor Excel, so I pointed to those. Before I left this morning I'd made a note that the handle said "Gillette". The thing is, razors all have names that sound like 60's sci-fi spaceships, and I couldn't remember for sure what the name of the kind I use is.

I use Gillette's Mach 3, it turns out. I just tried using the stupid Sensor Excel blade by holding it between my fingers-- just to see if maybe I could fake it tomorrow morning. It is a wonder I didn't slice my fool head off. If the maid had come in before I finished cleaning up I'd be sitting in a cell and the cops would be looking for the body.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Joe Conason: "This is the second instance when a president named Bush has foisted an unimpressive Supreme Court nominee on the nation, abusing "diversity" while implausibly claiming to have chosen the best possible nominee.

"The first time was the elevation of Clarence Thomas, which turned into a kind of tragedy. And now, accompanied by bogus accusations of sexism and conservative fratricide, the promotion of Harriet Miers is quickly becoming a farce."

I'm not sure what Conason means when he refers to the Thomas appointment as "a kind of tragedy", although I agree with the notion. Certainly Thomas' presence on the bench represents an offensive, cynical view of American ideals and American jurisprudence-- two things that I hold dear. And I suppose it is true that the Thomas hearings revealed the United States Senators that participated as the sort of poltroons we should have known them for all along.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It occurred to me last night that if Harriet Miers goes down in flames the natural impulse of the Bush White House will be to come back with a more credentialed right wing nut. Of course, these things don't really have a fixed pattern: Bork to Ginsburg ("Party on, dude)led to Anthony Kennedy; Nixon's nomination of Clement Haynsworth led to G. Harrold Carswell ("Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to representation, aren't they?" - Senator Roman Hruska) and ultimately Justice Blackmun. Birch Bayh led the fight against Haynsworth and Carswell-- the staffers that I knew that had worked with him at the time were very proud of this accomplishment-- the first time a Supreme Court nominee had been defeated in nearly seventy years. They recalled that the second fight was even harder than the first. There were several reasons for this: the first fight had been tough, and a lot of people didn't have the taste for it any more; and there was some sentiment that the point had been made, and that the President should now be entitled to his choice. The sheep we have in the Senate these days are even more likely to roll right over the second time-- honestly, can't you just hear Lieberman now?

It seems to me that they may be looking in the wrong places for potential justices. There was an article about the Michigan Supreme Court (they call their highest court the "Supreme Court"-- isn't that adorable?), and I thought, you know who'd be good? The Chief Judge of our own Court of Appeals, the Hon. Judith Kaye, would be a terrific pick. I have no idea if it is a job she is seriously interested in, but I don't expect that too many people turn down the offer. She's a solid judge, with an excellent track record. Chuck Schumer wouldn't make a peep. I have no idea what her thinking is on Roe v. Wade, but I'm tired of Roe v. Wade being the sole defining characteristic of judicial nominations-- there are larger questions, and a correct answer on Roe (poorly reasoned, now settled law) is just a part of the overall picture.

St. Triceratops.(Thanks to Making Light.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pinter. Huh. I tell people that I don't like theater, that the only playwrights whose work I'll go see are Shakespeare and Beckett, but, as the tramp says in "The Caretaker", "I used to go there quite a bit. (pause) (pause) (long pause). Oh, years ago now...." Harold Pinter was a great favorite of mine at one time, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard he'd been awarded the Nobel Prize this year. You'd have to say that it is an eccentric choice, I think. Pinter's innovation was not so much in the use of language as in the incorporation of silence-- perhaps a trope he acquired from Beckett and applied in a more realistic setting. I think one of the criteria I'd use if I were picking Nobel laureates would be to ask, "Is this writer one of the best out there who hasn't been honored?" (This works for the Baseball Hall of Fame, too.) I don't know that I'd put Pinter on that list. Although his influence certainly can't be denied, the parade had probably already passed him by twenty five years ago.

Still, he is a major figure, and at least I've read him, which is more than I can say about a lot of the people who win this peculiar award.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

EGA writes: "I'm getting some rather weird results from my Quantifier study. Results that are leading me to suspect that children simply have no idea what "Every" means. This could be really bad. It could also be really useful, but being who I am I'm inclined to believe it will be really bad. Today at lunch I suggested a title for my paper: Children Suck at This. It could be the first of a whole series of papers and lectures on Why Children Are Stupid. "My experiment also showed that the majority of children were completely unable to make me an omelette."

Seriously, the studies I've read on children and quantifiers do not even begin to explain the data I'm getting. Cappy says this might mean I could get published; I'm more inclined to believe it means I'm doing something terribly wrong."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I just electronically submitted notification of a disposition to the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York. I have never seen such a cumbersome process.

I cannot imagine why this needs to be as complex as it is: it amounts to an ftp, which is simple enough-- that's what I'll do when I post this. People snark at Blogger, and Typepad, but the interface of both is simple and intuitive. When I did this site by hand, using Dreamweaver-- hell, when I did this site by hand using Netscape Composer and a free ftp client I downloaded from somewhere-- it was simpler than what I just went through.

I cannot imagine why the federal courts took this path.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Big props to EGA who just called to advise that she has been accepted into the China program, and will be in the Middle Kingdom this coming Spring semester and through the summer. "You must be walking on air," I said. "Actually," she replied, "I'm a little nauseous."

Even so, it's pretty thrilling.

Today is Thelonious Monk's birthday. Just thing to move the soundtrack of my life from all that Dylan I've been listening to. (wood s lot reminded me.)

I thought it was odd that the Nobel Prize in Literature hadn't been announced-- usually the Peace Prize is last, and I thought perhaps I'd missed the lit prize. Turns out they have delayed the announcement. I am not familiar with the work of either the Syrian poet or the Turkish novelist. Seems to me that this would be a good year for an American Jew-- Roth would mean that Mailer and Zimmerman are probably out of the running for good, but there'd be no disputing his qualifications. Roth has an international perspective that is unusual in American writers, but I suspect that the Swedish Academy is as pissed off at the US as everybody else, and awarding the prize to a Middle Eastern or Muslim writer would send an interesting message. (Thanks to Bookslut for the heads up.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I wasn't sure what I wanted to read on the flight back. I'd thought someone would have got me Chronicles for Christmas or a birthday, but no one had, and there it was, fresh out in paperback, and me with my iPod and eight hours of travel to look forward to.

Dylan is the very personification of the unreliable narrator, but that's his prerogative. What I thought was interesting about the Scorsese film was that,
notwithstanding Bob's cooperation, the end result was really Scorsese's version of the story. Because so much of the Dylan story is so familiar I almost didn't
recognize what Scorsese was, I think, actually doing, but the fact is that it is a classic picaresque coming of age tale. Small town boy comes to the Big City, finds success through hard work, suffers a setback because of the parochialism of the people who first acclaimed him, ultimately triumphs.

Is it a true story? Well, Dylan might say, some of it is....

Scorsese's story is not the story that Dylan feels like telling in the book. Dylan wants to talk about the stuff that he was reading back when he was couch surfing in the Village, and the way the things he read affected his thinking. He wants to talk about his musicianship, and how he has experimented with technique. He tells about celebrity, and he pretty much lays to rest the notion that he was ever a spokesman for anyone or anything except for Bob Dylan. Even at that, his work is less about answers than it is about questions. Thinking about it, "Blood on the Tracks" aside, aren't most of his songs about other people? Indeed, even "Blood on the Tracks" is as made up as anything else: when did Bob Dylan work on a fishing boat outside of Delacroix? He sneaks some autobiography in here and there, but I'm hard pressed to think of too many Dylan songs that are about the story that Scorsese tells. Joan Baez says that "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" was written about her, and I can believe that he told her that, but like most things that Dylan says, I question how literally true the statement is or was. And yet, when Dylan is doing what made him great, his songs are some of the truest things to have ever come out of any American art. When Chuck Berry tells the truth he speaks to what is joyful and exuberant in America. Dylan-- even when he is happy, even when he is in love, has a streak of melancholy, a whiff of fatality. This may be what defines Dylan as one of the principal avatars of the American Trilogy: by going electric, by taking on and transforming rock'n'roll, he took on the question of America's Original Sin, and he did it by acknowledging that Muddy Waters invented electricity. I haven't seen any review that mentions it, but in "Chronicles" Dylan talks about learning a particular technique on guitar from Lonnie Brooks. Come to think of it, I didn't see any reviews that commented on the lengthy sections of the book where Dylan talks about how he writes.

I'd be interested in reading a study dealing with his film work. This is an area where my own knowledge is spotty, or worse-- I've only seen "don't Look Back" and "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid". "Masked and Anonymous", and "Renaldo and Clara" would be interesting to see precisely because they document the Dylan that came after the "coming of age" Dylan.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I realized last night that I hadn't really been outside, and was operating with a sort of low grade headache, so I ventured out onto the strip. The fountain was outside the Bellagio, and was synchronized to that song from "Titanic". People applauded at the end. The air was worse outside than it was inside, and the city itself was certainly no cleaner than it needed to be. The effect was something like a gigantic shopping mall, again, with gambling. I was sort of surprised to see that there seemed to be less gambling than I would have thought.

Sometimes I find myself in places that I immediately like, and sometimes I don't. I found Las Vegas profoundly depressing, but it didn't give me the weird alienated feeling I get in some places (places where German is the primary language, for example). I felt like an inert object that would pass through Vegas without any effect on either of us. I went for a run this morning with a group from the conference and was pleased that their take on the place was similar to mine-- most people repond to the idea of Vegas as though it is so much fun that I was starting to think I was missing a chromosome or something. Pretty bad place to run, by the way-- they don't seem really interested in anybody using the sidewalks.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I am in Las Vegas, at a conference, the first time I have ever been here. It is, I think, the most un-ironic city I have ever seen, and I am finding that somewhat unnerving.

It is difficult to describe what I mean. The hotel I'm staying in has a half size replica of the Eiffel Tower in front of it: the inside endeavors to replicate a French street scene (avec slot machines, craps tables and blackjack). Down the block there is a miniature Statue of Liberty next to a mock-up of the Brooklyn Bridge. Past that is a gigantic concrete Sphinx, with parking under it. Anywhere else this would be tacky, or kitsch, or camp, but in order to be those things these monuments would have to be referring to the originals in some way. These do not-- the scale takes this out of the realm of miniature golf and turns it into something altogether different. It is said to be a big theme park for adults, but although the variety of available vice is certainly adult in some sense, the fact that it is available, and promoted, and exists in this absurd setting takes any taint of sin or sophistication right out of it.

Most of the local people I have spoken to-- the ones that have been here for a long time-- don't care for it. It used to be fun, I'm told, but now people just come to gawk. My cab driver took me past an elaborate fountain which had a throng of people just standing looking at it. "You think any of them came here to gamble?" he asked. It used to be that maybe a guy would come here with his wife, and maybe she'd play the slots, or do something else, and he'd hit the tables, or maybe do something else, but it's not like that now."

Maybe so. Maybe it was different in the Rat Pack days. Right now what it looks like-- the Strip, anyway, is a patch of desert that they scratched out with a view towards putting up a series of garish hotels. When a hotel gets old, they blow it up and build a bigger one. It's hard to summon the aesthetic criteria to say what it is-- since there is no irony, it seems almost immune to criticism.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dahlia Lithwick: "In a delicious double-Cheney, the woman assigned the task of selecting the next associate justice of the Supreme Court ultimately determined that there was no one so qualified as herself. Never mind that probably 49 other women have also served as the first woman president of their state bar associations. Never mind that the credentials Miers brings to the table might have justified labeling her a "pioneer" for women's rights 25 years ago. And never mind that the best thing Bush could manage to say for her this morning was that her mom is proud. The soft bigotry of low expectations �The president has caved to the twin pressures of identity politics and confirmation politics: He's ignored the extremely well-qualified women for an unqualified one, and the well-qualified candidates for a confirmable one." in a way this pick is comforting-- it is Bush reverting to type. Just as his old man picked a certifiable mediocrity when he tapped Clarence Thomas, GW has tapped a cypher. What does this mean for the next twenty five years of Supreme Court jurisprudence? The only thing we know about Harriet Miers is that Bush has picked her. I hate to say it, but that's enough for me. Chuck Schumer, get busy! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I went to the drugstore today to pick up my thyroid pills. As I walked out, I took the bottle out of the bag and opened it, intending to take my daily dose, when I noticed that the pills were bigger-- quite a bit bigger-- than usual. Visual inspection reveled them to be blue, and a different shape, and a check of the label established that these were not my Levoxyl- I had some other guy's Viagra. I must admit that y first thought was to just keep the other guy's drugs, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I know that the stupid Levoxyl has no recreational value whatsoever, and I couldn't have lived with the idea that W___________ J________ would have had to suffered through a week or so thinking, "Damn, these pink pills ain't nothin'. C'mon, man, let's go!". I brought them back, got my own drugs, and told the pharmacist, "Tell Mr. _________ to have fun." I hope he does. Sure would have changed my Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

For a while now Laura Cantrell's Radio Thrift Shop has been the soundtrack of my Saturdays in the office. I'm listening to it right now-- she is playing an interview she did with Glenn Campbell and Jimmy Webb-- and she has just announced that the program is going on hiatus until the Spring. I hope this means that her career as a performing and recording artist is taking off, but I'll miss her show, which is country ecclectic and quite lovely.

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