Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's funny how sometimes a very little thing can really mark an improvement in my life. For example, I love that there is a Papaya King in the JetBlue terminal at JFK. A Papaya King hot dog and a regular papaya drink is just the right snack-- and if I get it with slaw, or sauerkraut it's high in health fiber!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interesting decision by the Court of Appeals in Arons v. Jutkowitz (pdf file)today. It has been the practice among medical malpractice defense attorneys to request an authorization permitting an ex parte interview with the plaintiff's treating doctor after the plaintiff has filed a Note of Issue placing the case on the trial calendar-- and to make a motion compelling the production of such an authorization if such is not forthcoming. Apparently these motions were routinely granted.

I have a couple of problems with this notion. First, the ex parte interview with a treating doctor in this scenario takes place after discovery has closed-- that's the effect of a Note of Issue. Second, if defense counsel want to speak with a non-party treating physician, the CPLR provides for a means to do so-- it's called a non-party deposition, and it keeps everything on the record and above board. There is something inherently fishy seeming to me about conducting ex parte interviews with a doctor after discovery is over. In its decision the Court of Appeals calls this "informal discovery"- if it weren't a doctor, I'd call it "investigation", or pretrial preparation-- but either way, there is a privilege involved here, and the potential for crossing a line and violating that privilege when there is nobody watching from the other side seems significant to me. As Judge Pigott notes in his dissent, "there is simply no statutory authority under [Article 31]for off-the record interviews of treating physicians". He even goes Latin on it: "expresio unius est exclusio alterus"-- probably an expression he learned at LeMoyne. (I note also that Judge Pigott's dissent uses the word "perusing" in its correct sense-- that is, "to examine closely". Good work. I have no doubt that he will use "begs the question" correctly as well when the opportunity presents itself.)

So now we know what the law is. I suppose the next question is, should this be what the law is?

More Mailer reminiscence. The Mailer-Breslin ticket's campaign slogan was "Vote the Rascals In". It's pretty great that it seems like everyone who ever met the guy has got a story about him.

"There is one small, pleasing fragment that has survived from those battleground years. It is contained in a front-page illustration for the Voice of July 1, 1981, by the paper's former stellar cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty. At the bottom of a scrambled New York tableau, Stamaty drew a perfect, pint-sized Mailer holding a copy of the Voice. "Scumbag Journalism, Page 42" is the caption popping out of his mouth. A blowup of the cover has long hung in the Voice's lobby, and since the single slow elevator gives us so much time there to ponder, I've looked at it often and wondered what prompted that particular blast.

Last week, I finally pulled one of the old green bound volumes off the library shelves to find out. As it happens, the hoped-for screed was only a small boxed correction. Mailer had telephoned, a nameless editor wrote, accusing the Voice of practicing "scumbag journalism" for having published a photo montage that made it seem as though he were together with Jack Henry Abbott, the murderous writer Mailer had helped free from prison. "He was also mighty angry," the editor added, "that we published a photo of him in a dinner jacket." Even then, Mailer had his pride."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mailer for Mayor. (Via Kottke.)

"I'm Not There" is inspiring some worthwhile Dylanology. J. Hoberman on Dylan movies, for example, or this list (via Making Light) of The Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

As we did last year we are renting an apartment in Manhattan for Thanksgiving. There is a great deal to like about this arrangement: it is a more or less central point for our household and my parents; it is easy to travel for my brother and his wife-- and for EGA-- but it does present us with a problem common to vacation rentals-- Other People's Kitchens. Typically the kitchen in a rental property is filled with an oddball assortment of utensils, which requires improvisation on our part. Last year I packed a bunch of stuff, and was mocked for each item, until each was used. Here's what we brought last year: Le Creuset dutch oven; (2) whisks; potato masher; tongs; Rabbit corkscrew; NYTimes cookbook; meat thermometer; waffle mix/waffle iron; syrup; skillet (I think the stainless); Sabatier knife; kitchen shears; dish towel; collender; ladle.

I love lists like that, which is one reason I love "Moby Dick". Here are the different kinds of rope we brought....

Friday, November 16, 2007

I had, as Vice President Cheney says, "other priorities" last night, so I didn't watch the Democrats' debate. I like this summary from Firedoglake, though:

"Clinton proved once again why she’s a formidable candidate. Her two closest challengers may have lost their edge, while three second tier candidates — Biden (foreign policy expertise), Dodd (education and constitutional issues), and Kucinich (got it right the first time) — did well. It proved once again this group of Democrats makes the party look good, and that what the Party needs is a composite of the knowledge, wisdom, and foresight their candidates have to offer."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reading about Mailer took me to Vidal, which took me to William F. Buckley, who also ran for Mayor of New York. Buckley did it first, in 1965, four years before Mailer and Jimmy Breslin. (For some reason I thought they both ran the same year, which would have been awesome, instead they both ran against-- and in some way contributed to the victory of John V. Lindsay.) (Breslin's wife, Ronnie Eldridge was actually a member of the City Council from 1989 until 2001, which goes to show something.)

When they asked Buckley what he would do if he won he said, "Demand a recount." On the Mailer/Breslin ticket it was Breslin who seemed to have the best lines. For example, when it was over, he said "I am mortified to have taken part in a process that required bars to be closed." He probably took it more seriously than Mailer, though-- in 1969 Mailer was riding high. Having won the Pulitzer for "Armies of the Night", he was the American cultural equivalent of a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade-- he was just about as big as his ego. I love "Armies" but one of the things that makes it so great is Mailer's willingness to be a buffoon in support of an important cause, drunkenly imitating LBJ and all. He must have been hilarious running for office, whereas Buckley, though no doubt amused by it all, was certainly more earnest.

You'd never know it to listen to them, but Mailer and Buckley actually had platforms with a number of things in common. They both proposed a ban on private cars in Manhattan, for example, an idea whose time has come. We would be a better place today if we still had candidates like that I think, candidates who could make jokes about Ezra Pound and know that their audience would get it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I've read what William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal had to say about the famous exchange in which Vidal called Buckley a "crypto-Nazi", and Buckley offers to sock Vidal in the face, but I'd never seen it. This is why the World Wide Interweb is so great. I was looking for the "Maidstone" donnybrook between Mailer and Rip Torn(the link I had posted earlier had been taken down) and there it was. Great stuff-- political discourse really was conducted at a higher level back then, although it also included name-calling that I doubt anyone would get away with today. Buckley calls Vidal a queer, in addition to offering to sock him the the g-ddamned face-- "And you'll stay plastered...." he hisses. "Let the author of "Myra Breckenridge" go back to his pornography...."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

To the Tord Gustavsen Trio last night, part of Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox. Because his style is quiet and contemplative Gustavsen draws comparisons to Bill Evans, but although anyone who likes Evans would probably enjoy Gustavsen the comparison falls down when you consider the way the two pianists swing-- Gustavsen's swing is elongated, and is as much about the space around the composition as it is his left hand-- a common quality among the artists on the ECM label, as Bruce pointed out in his pre-show talk. Sometimes this sort of thing can seem dry, but last night it hit me just right-- I found myself thinking about how warm and inviting this music was-- deceptively complex, another point in common with Evans, or Keith Jarrett, but also friendly, in the reserved way most of the Scandinavians I know are. If you were in Oslo on a cold night, you would be pleased to find yourself in a room where this group was playing, although the chances are it would be in a church or a small auditorium rather than a club. Even if it were in a club, you would not expect anyone in the room to acknowledge that you walked in, and you would order your drink by pointing.

It bears mentioning that this was one of only five stops in North America for these musicians, on this tour, and that they are generating a buzz that is almost louder than their music. I don't know what Bruce Eaton's secret is, but he is consistently in front of the field when it comes to bringing the best in jazz to Buffalo. Gustavsen and his trio's other stops were San Francisco, LA, and Knoxville (for the Bijou Fall Festival of the Arts), and it is pretty cool to think that the Queen City of the Lakes is on the map for musicians working at this level.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer is a writer everyone has an opinion about, but I have never had any difficulty persuading anyone who has ever read him of his greatness. In a way the fact that he was so prolific may have been part of the problem; he was outsized in both his output and his personality, and it often seemed as if people formed their opinion of this nuanced, meticulous mind by measuring the quantity of output, rather than by evaluating its subtle qualities. He didn't make it easy, of course, and he wasn't interested in making it easy. "Do not understand me too quickly" was not his remark-- he borrowed the epigraph from Andre Gide and put it at the front of one of his most interesting (and challenging) works of fiction, "The Deer Park". Thinking about how it is that Mailer may actually have become under-appreciated this morning it occurred to me that although he wrote about American culture, he was not principally concerned with pop culture as such. Sports and entertainment had deeper significance for him, and so his novel about Hollywood was a complicated depiction about the ways power is obtained, and social manipulation, rather than, say, a character study along the lines of a novel like Bud Schulberg's "What Makes Sammy Run?", or a broad social parody like Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One". (Different too from Nathanial West's "Day of the Locust", although I think what West was after was closer to what Mailer managed to accomplish.) One of the reasons Mailer may not be all that accessible to audiences these days may be that there no longer seems to be a distiction between high and low culture in America. No doubt the notion of Britteny Spears, for example would have been something he grasped immediately-- there are Britteny Spears types throughout"The Deer Park"-- but the fact that we now find Britteny Spears interesting would not have been interesting to Mailer, nor would the arc of her story. He needed bigger icons, because Mailer's America was bigger than the place we have become.

My friend Kelly Kramer was the one who put me on the right path with Mailer. I was mocking him once, and she quietly suggested that I read a story called "The Language of Men". It's found in "Advertisements for Myself", a volume of miscellany that is another form he invented, although I'll be surprised if anyone mentions that. To this day it is one of my favorite things of his. Mailer didn't go in much for short stories-- or brevity at all, really-- but he was certainly capable of working in the form if he felt it would make his point. I just re-read "The Language of Men" as a form of private personal memorial before sitting down to write this post, and it hit me just the way it did when I first read it, a different sort of blow than the feeling that struck me when the radio snapped on this morning and I heard that Mailer had died, but almost physical, just as the news announcement had been. He remained relevant to the end, and I am sorry that we don't have a Norman Mailer to describe for us what the loss of Norman Mailer means to American culture. It means, to me, that we really don't have anyone who is prepared to say, "I want to be a great American Writer because that is an important thing." I wonder if it also means that it is no longer an important thing.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Here's a little snapshot of what's wrong with the American medical system, from an article in yesterday's NYTimes about the death of Ryan Shay at last week's Olympic Trials:

"Since late 2004, the International Olympic Committee and the European Society of Cardiology have recommended that athletes under 35 be tested with an electrocardiogram before they begin participating in sports. This is not standard procedure in the United States.

“In an ideal world, yes,” said Dr. Douglas Zipes, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis who specializes in cardiac arrhythmias. “In reality, the cost effectiveness is insufficient to warrant it. Athletes having sudden death occurs very infrequently. The cost of an echocardiogram or EKG would not be supportable.” An estimated 125 to 300 die each year in the United States.

At the same time, Zipes said, “If this was my own son or grandson, I would want it done.”

So, here is what Doc Zipes remarks break down to: 125-300 healthy people kick it a year? Pffft, what's that? EKGs? Who is going to pay (me) for that?! Europeans? What do they know? Do they even wash their hands? Good thing I'm a doctor so people who are related to me can have this test.

By the way, a quick Google reveals what Doc Zipes and his friends get paid for this service, and it is not an expensive test. A routine EKG is reimbursed by Medicare for under $25 bucks.

My guess is that the actual cost to the doctor is probably lower: if you have the equipment all that is needed is for the physician to read the strip, and I'll bet that most of the time a technician does that. Put another way, apparently there is something about Europe that makes this a test that everybody gets.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I read Rafe Colburn's weblog every day, and I have for years-- I think it is second only to Jessamyn West's site in terms of my personal long-standing weblog habit. A lot of sites have fallen off my list since that time, but although I read Rafe pretty much every morning, I seldom link to him. This post is an exception: Rafe Colburn's list of the issues that are important to him in the upcoming Presidential race.

"* Someone who can marshal the political will to address global warming in a meaningful way. Most people seem to understand that humans are causing global warming and that if we do nothing about it, problems are ahead. Is there a candidate who can inspire America (and the world) to take positive steps to address global warming?
* Someone who is committed to getting the United States out of the torture business and out of the secret detention business as soon as they take office. Knowing that our government captures people, hides them away, and tortures them (sometimes to death) makes me ashamed of our country.
* Someone who can end the US occupation of Iraq without leaving an intensifying sectarian conflict in our wake. I don’t even know if this can be done at all, but I think it’s a worthy goal.
* Someone who is willing to engage with Iran and is willing to seek a solution that serves both our national interest and theirs. I don’t believe we live in a world where everything good for Iran is bad for America and vice versa.
* Someone who’s willing to make an effort to address the problem of health insurance in this country. We have something like forty million people with no insurance, and health insurance costs are going up rapidly for everyone else. Medicare and Medicaid costs are a long term threat to the fiscal stability of the government. The range of possible solutions to this problem is not as wide as Presidential candidates (and many progressives) like to believe. We’re not going to get the French system with universal, taxpayer-funded health care and doctors who earn $55,000 a year, but a better system is possible.
* Someone who’s willing to be realistic about immigration. Income per capita in Mexico is $7,310 per year, in the United States it’s around $42,000 per year. If you were broke in Mexico and knew you could find work in America, would you not immigrate to the United States, legally or otherwise? As long as that income disparity exists, the northward migration will continue. We need a President who can get beyond treating immigrants like a menace."

I take exception with the notion that our health care problem is an insurance problem, except to the extent that insurance is the problem. We need universal single payer now, and I don't think it is impossible once the dimensions of the issue are better explicated. On everything else, I'm with Rafe.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I was number 52 at the polls today, at a little before 8:00 AM. Perhaps I don't watch enough television, because I haven't really seen any of the ads that people are saying have been so effective. It seems to me that the Erie County Executive race turned on the leadership of the two major parties. The Republican's Jim Domalgalski picked a solid enough guy who seems like he is the opposite of polarizing. Len Lenahan, on the other hand, made a big deal about how he was looking for a fresh face, then picked a guy who easily fit the look and history of a tired old hack. I'm sure that Jim Keane would do a capable job, but he was subjected to a primary which left him pretty nicked up, and I think a lot of people were pretty tired of him.

Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe Keane will pull it off. G-d knows enough people threw enough money into this pyre-- on both sides-- to make the entire thing look pretty squalid.

My collection contains enough of both the top 100 jazz CDs and the top 100 released in the last ten years to suggest that both lists are useful starting places for those times when I feel like getting some new music, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I have slightly less than half of the sides on the all-time list; my holdings on the contemporary list are less extensive, although the number of artists represented compares favorably. I owe Bruce Eaton a thank you on the contemporary stuff-- as I've said before, the best place to hear music in Buffalo is somewhere in Bruce's vicinity.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guy Fawkes Day! I've never really had a clear picture of why this is celebrated: leaving aside the anti-Catholic dimension of the holiday, the fact that a conspiracy to overthrow the Crown in Parliament was thwarted has always impressed my American mind as the opposite of what one would have a party about. Here in the States we let off fireworks to commemorate successfully doing exactly that. I guess there is a sense in which the holiday is about the triumph of the Rule of Law, but the mob rule aspect associated with burning a figure in effigy seems inconsistent with such a theme. (Thanks to Making Light for reminding me.)

Update: Scott Horton has a good take on it here: "Happy Counter-Terrorism Day"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

When you meet a New Orleanian they always ask, "What did you have for diner last night?", so I guess that's a place to start. By avoiding oysters-- and I can't deny that I was tempted-- I escaped New Orleans without incident. Had a fine crawfish
Etouffée, had a fantastic veal with crabmeat. Had a nice piece of Gulf flounder, done with a white wine and garlic sauce that just danced when I put it in my mouth. I left time on Saturday to go to Mothers, where I had the Ferdie's Special--a po' boy with baked ham, roast beef, debris and gravy, served dressed. Heard some good music, too. Our luncheon speaker was the head of the NOLA Convention and Business Bureau who said, among other things, that nearly 40% of the city's economy is based on tourism. (Americans list the food as the first thing they think of when they think of New Orleans, and Europeans say they they think of the music first.) As the cab pulled away from my hotel it occurred to me that as a destination I can't imagine why anyone would go to Las Vegas when New Orleans is available.

Everybody in town seems just a little twitchy, and everybody in town is glad that you are there. Just as all conversations start the same way, they all seemed to end the same way: "When you get back home, tell everybody that we are open for business." If all you saw was the Quarter, you'd think that all of the images from the hurricane were from a different place, but we took a bus tour and the basis for the perceptible nick in the local joie screams in your face as soon as you are a few blocks away from where you'd normally be. In a way, the parts of NOLA that anyone from out of town sees are like the parts of any city that we visit-- the parts where the people who live there go about their lives are seldom visited. Who in Buffalo would take a guest to the Old First Ward? New Yorkers don't bring visitors to Bensonhurst. Shown here are some houses in the Ninth Ward. I suppose the people who lived here are and were more or less the economic peers of the folks that live in the vicinity of Buffalo's old Central Terminal, or maybe the First Ward. Urban poor, some working, some not, living in houses that have been in the family for generations. If you look closely, you can see the holes in the roof. You can see the waterline. Block after block of this-- really an area about as big as our East and West Sides combined, I'd estimate. There are big stretches where there is nothing at all-- the houses were just washed away for blocks around. One of those houses belonged to our bus driver's grandparents. Shopping plazas, just abandoned. Over in St. Bernard parish the hospital is gone. Our guide told us that they are finding that there has been a big spike in the sorts of injuries sustained when you are doing repair and construction-- the number of lost fingers has doubled since the storm, for example.

Naturally anything that was in these houses is gone. In a city filled with people who pride themselves on their connection with the place, and with their family histories, photo albums, family bibles, every sort of memorabilia you can imagine was lost. Come to find out that safe deposit boxes aren't waterproof. The contents of safe deposit boxes, when they were finally able to be accessed, had turned into paper-maché.

In every meaningful way, this is a city that was destroyed. The devastation was so far beyond what I had visualized that I can't really convey it even now. People gone, housing stock decimated, transportation infrastructure wiped out. (The local streets are a mess, something you wouldn't realize from watching the news. There is no bedrock, of course, so all the roads that were under water for all that time had their supporting soil, sand and gravel washed away.)

Lots of businesses haven't come back, so, for example, there are a large areas that are not served by any sort of supermarket. There are quite a few big new Home Depot stores, though. Tens of thousands of cars were ruined, or just plain washed away, so there are a surprising number of shiny new cars, and apparently the auto dealers are doing nearly as well as the Home Depot guys.

I almost cried, and then I was angry. This devastation, and its ongoing consequences are not from a storm, except in the metaphorical sense that there was a perfect storm of governmental and private sector negligence, neglect and incompetence. On the federal level it is still happening-- although on the ground the people who live in the city are doing what people have always done. New Orleans is busy. There were people beavering away everywhere, and the hospitality was outstanding. I wish I could go back next week. (I'm thinking particularly about the veal and crab, and Soufflée Potatoes, but also about the things I didn't get, and the places I didn't get to.) If you are thinking of doing a little recreational travel, you absolutely should-- in some ways going to New Orleans has changed from merely being terrifically fun to now being an opportunity to have fun and do something important.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

 I'm tempting the Gout Gods in The Big Easy, always a good place to be, and now maybe more than ever. More anon, but for now this photo. I took some measurements, and I figure the Orange Cat would just about fit in the bun compartment.

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