Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I pretty much always read the NYTimes obits of any athlete (but especially baseball players) and any lawyer. This guy's caught my eye-- some times I think about what it would have been like to have had someone's career, and sometimes I think about what it would have been like to have had him as an adversary, but looking at Thomas Barr I thought, "Wow, how'd you like to have worked for him?" Not much, I think. Something tells me he was a ballbuster.

I'm sorry to see John Edwards drop out-- I was working up to voting for him, and although I still can, of course, there's not really any point to going with a candidate that really represents such a significant compromise on what I'm actually looking for. He seems well intentioned, and although I'm seeing people say that he comes off as a phoney, I can't say that I ever thought that. I guess my Edwards problem has been that he was such a nothing when he debated Dick Cheney. If that was the best he could do against the Prince of Darkness, it's tough to imagine that he'd do better against a more personable Republican. McCain would carve him up, is what I'm saying, and as a trial lawyer I find that disappointing.

I'm thinking Obama right now. What the hell, we aren't going to get single-payer anyway. The better he does in New York, the more likely he is to stop the only candidate likely to lose this race, and I like the idea of a President who isn't a Boomer. Stupid Mike Gravel-- he's in the top three now, and I don't get to vote for him.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've been proclaiming my support for Mike Gravel since last Spring, but I just checked the New York ballot, and he's not on it. It is kind of a dilemma for me. I want to support the available candidate who is the furthest left on the spectrum, on the theory that this pulls the party ever so slightly in the direction I want it to move, but that means I am now looking at voting for Dennis Kucinich. I don't want to vote for Kucinich-- it feels more like a wasted vote for some reason. I'd vote for Edwards, but I can't think of a reason to prefer him over Kucinich, who has the right idea about health care policy, and who was always right about the war. It is very disappointing to find that my quixotic gesture has been thwarted this way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

There are a lot of things that are hilarious about Rudy Giuliani's strategy, but the best, I think, is that it is apparently based on John V. Lindsay's plan. Can't you just hear Wallace Shawn sputtering in the background? "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: the New Yorkers who moved to Florida all did it because they hated you!"

To the Lionel Loueke Trio at Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz at the Albright Knox yesterday. Probably jazz is America's greatest contribution to world culture, and Bruce has been booking acts that demonstrate that the world is giving it back; Loueke is from Benin, in West Africa, his drummer, Ferenc Nemeth is Hungarian, and his bassist, Massimo Biolcati is from Italy, and is half Swedish. So what does it sound like? Well, there is a recognizably African sound that runs through the blues. It is a guitar sound, mostly-- one of the ways that this music mutated when it came to the New World was that pianos came into it. You hear it in the way that the Reverend Gary Davis plays, and it runs through Muddy Waters and on into jazz. It's related to the "wild, mercury sound" that Dylan says he was trying for on "Blond on Blond", and it's in the South African parts that Paul Simon used on "Graceland" and that Peter Gabriel has employed in his world music experiments. Loueke has that sound, and it is interesting to think about the fact that the guitar-- a modified lute that was invented in Spain back before centuries had three digits-- has migrated around the world, and become the foundation sound of so many musical forms. So Loueke sounds like that, and sometimes he sounds a little like George Benson.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm a proud alum of the University at Buffalo School of Law, but it seems to me that they can be a bit pusillanimous when it comes to honoring other graduates. I boycotted the dinner for Dennis Vacco-- a thug; and Dale Volker was an outrageous choice. (You may not know Volker. He's a longtime member of the New York State Senate-- in and of itself a despicable calling-- who ran and was elected on the promise to restore capital punishment to the Empire State. His death penalty law was never responsible for a single execution, and was declared unconstitutional last year. Nice work, Darth) I see that the keynote speaker for the Winter Meeting is Michael Battle, the hatchet man for the US Attorney firings. You know, there are a lot of people who went to UB that have done good things-- why pick guys like this? Vacco eliminated the longstanding tradition of non-partisan, merit-based employment in the New York AG's office. Volker sits in his Albany office muttering, "Kill, kill, kill them all". And Battle was a member of the Bush DOJ. They have certainly distinguished themselves-- I'd say they deserve a special section in Hell-- but that doesn't mean that my Alumni Association should be throwing parties for them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A funny sort of weekend, over which we did a great deal, and yet felt as though little was accomplished. Saw the Sabres score 10 goals, and as I write this I hope that someone who needs it more is enjoying the yellow Bill Rogers touque-- LCA complained bitterly whenever I wore it, and I must admit that although it was soft and warm, it was also hideous. It was a nice Buffalo kind of thing to do for CLA's last evening in town before returning to school, which is what we did Saturday. Her Christmas break was the longest, a chance to spend time that we didn't feel like we had with any of our other guests this year. My brother's epic journey from the Antipodes did not yield a great deal of time for us to really do anything together, and EGA's visit, although longer, was marked by her characteristic restlessness. CLA was anxious to get back to Geneseo and resume her life there, but it was low-level anxiety, and when we got her there she was fine with letting us linger a bit. We bought some dorm room items, and split a pizza, and felt the oddly satisfying melancholy of knowing that she is doing well away from us.

And then yesterday I made steak and mushroom pie. Jamie Oliver had been the only tolerable thing to watch as I was giving blood Saturday morning, and he'd been demonstrating pastry technique, so I made a beef stew with Guinness for the filling, and horsed around rolling out and folding dough. The trick was to freeze the butter, then grate it into the sifted flour.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm terribly sad that New World Records is closing up shop. They were always good corporate citizens, for one thing, happy to come through with donations for arts organizations' fund raisers, and pleased to promote local musicians. I felt their absence immediately when they moved from Elmwood to Hertel-- the store was a haven, a place to duck into if you were kicking around Elmwood, and if I walked out with a new side eight or nine times out of ten, so much the better. I'm also sad because it is pretty clear that this sort of Championship Vinyl business is on the way out. "The Gift Shop on the Titanic" is how they describe themselves, but it's worse than that-- they are in the buggy whip business. I didn't make the move from LPs to CDs for a long time, and now CDs, which once seemed so space age are as dated and outmoded as Tang. The artifact aspect of purchasing music is fading out even more quickly than I would have guessed, and I hate that. I liked 12" record jackets, with their interesting art and useful gatefolds. I liked the rituals associated with playing an album-- slipping out the inner sleeve; being careful to hold the record by the edge and the label to avoid fingerprints; maybe brushing it off with your Discwasher brush. I liked that music was in a form that had a discrete beginning, middle and end, and that the LP form obliged you to listen to the music in a linear manner. I liked that fact that you could exercise creative dominion over your music by crafting mixtapes-- something of a lost form now. A mix CD feels disposable, and lacks the rigid structure of a carefully composed tape. And iPod playlists are not the same thing at all. The future is inevitable, and with it is always change. We'll download music to chips behind our ears soon enough, and I'll bet we won't have jet packs or personal hovercraft then, either.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stupid and corrupt is not the same as unconstitutional. I guess I knew that, but it makes me sad that one of the consequences is that New York's stupid and corrupt judicial selection system gets to stay in place. You don't see a lot of 9-0 decisions out of this Supreme Court, but they held their noses and reversed the Second Circuit.

“I think it appropriate to emphasize the distinction between constitutionality and wise policy,” says John Paul Stevens “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.”

Anthony M. Kennedy threw in that, “If New York statutes for nominating and electing judges do not produce both the perception and the reality of a system committed to the highest ideals of the law, they ought to be changed and to be changed now.” You'd think so, wouldn't you? Of course, judges think that any process that finds them on the bench amounts to a merit selection system, and most lay people, to the extent that they think about it at all probably reckon that the best way to select any sort of public official is to vote for them. Isn't that what we learn in school? Isn't democracy the best way to decide everything?

No, it is not. As Justice Scalia commented, New York's present system "leaves judicial selection to voters uninformed about judicial qualifications and places a high premium upon the ability to raise money.” That's bad enough, but it doesn't even touch on the real heart of the issue-- there is nothing about being a judge that suggests that the person doing the job should be attuned to the popular whim. Quite the opposite, I'd say. Voting for judges is the absolute worst way to get good judges-- if you get a good judge by popular election-- and we do-- it is a coincidence, not a validation of the process. AS Justice Kennedy windily puts it, "When one considers that elections require candidates to conduct campaigns and to raise funds in a system designed to allow for competition among interest groups and political parties, the persisting question is whether that process is consistent with the perception and the reality of judicial independence and judicial excellence. The rule of law, which is a foundation of freedom, presupposes a functioning judiciary respected for its independence, its professional attainments, and the absolute probity of its judges. And it may seem difficult to reconcile these aspirations with elections."

People who talk about "Dylan's sense of humor" can sound as stuffy as people who discuss the same thing about Shakespeare, but the fact remains that "As You Like It" really is pretty funny, and Bob gets a nifty joke off from time to time also. He was in fine form on "Theme Time Radio" this week. Part of what is so good about the show is that he is totally in on the joke-- he's Bob Frickin' Dylan, and he knows it. Bob Dylan knows perfectly well that he sounds like Bob Dylan, so when he does a Sean Connery imitation-- which was spot on-- it's Bob's voice doing that lispy Scottish burr. It was so unexpected it cracked up the engineer, who you could hear laughing in the background.

I'll bet Shakespeare could have done a pretty good Connery too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Warning Signs. (Via Making Light.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It'll be a while before I'm on a bike again, and I miss almost everything about it. Just about the only thing I don't miss are Buffalo drivers, who are unusually unpleasant, and stupid and also wicked fat. I'd like to see Queen City cops on bikes, since this would be comical, and because it might bring about more aggressive enforcement of cyclists' rights. I'd also like to see bike boxes painted on our streets. As it happens, I've been in the sort of accident they help prevent.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shopping for CDs with EGA just before Christmas she made a crack about how my music presents have an "eat your vegetables" quality. Coming from her this was less like calling the music I give my kids Brussels sprouts than it sounds, but even so, I have to admit it stung just a tad. She got "Marquee Moon". My brother approvingly murmured "essential". "Marquee Moon" is not at all an eat your vegetables side. Lists of "essential" guitar albums are more properly the jurisdiction of others, but off the top of my head I'd put "Marquee Moon" with "Layla", and "Blow by Blow" in my top five. "See No Evil" popped up on Shuffle as I was driving home from New City on Friday, and I then had to hear the whole album.

Friday, January 11, 2008

For some time now I've been wanting to write something about mediator confidentiality. If I do Olam v. Congress Mortg. Co., 68 F.Supp.2d 1110 (N.D. California, 1999) would be a good place to start.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Since it came out I've been meaning to get my father Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby bio, "A Pocket Full of Dreams", but I could never remember if I had already done so. This year he broke the logjam and got it for me, and I've been digging it since Boxing Day. Giddins is one of my favorite jazz writers, and Bing is, it turns out, just about what he looked to be-- a hip guy with talent to burn and a great sense of humor, and, as Giddins argues, an important American cultural figure who was a synthesizer of black and white musical styles the way that Elvis would be. Giddins thinks he has been unjustly overlooked, and although the ubiquity of "White Christmas" might argue otherwise, the fact is that his significance may very well be something that has become so taken for granted that we have actually forgotten it. It isn't all that easy to find his important early recordings, for example- my shelves have an embarrassing dearth of them, even on vinyl, even on compilations, although I do have some. You're pretty good when Louis Armstrong says you are good, and Louis was a fan. Giddins says that Bing's style was informed by Armstrong, and that the rest of the male jazz singers out there, from Billy Eckstine through to Sinatra (and beyond) learned from Bing. Great stuff, and for once a biography that doesn't make me feel bad about its subject.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The interesting thing about the Iowa Caucus outcomes is the turnout: 100k more than ever before in history on the Democrat's side. That's pretty significant, as is the fact that on both sides the turnout favored the, you should excuse the expression, dark horse. The Hawkeye State story has historically been about organization, but it wasn't this time. Romney spent a ton of dough, and had serious operational infrastructure in place-- this loss is very serious for him. Edwards wasn't quite all in, but it is still surprising to see that big turnout didn't favor him-- I expect he will get some traction back on Super Tuesday, but I doubt it will be enough. This is turning into a two person contest, and the front runner has changed. I don't think New Hampshire is going to make much difference in sorting things out. I'd expect that Edwards is prepared for a third place finish there. I haven't given much thought to Obama's appeal in the South. Thinking about it now, South Carolina is looking like an interesting place to watch.

It's a nice problem to have, the choice between three people who would all be far better than the last eight years. I still think that HRC is probably the only Democrat that could lose, basically for the reasons Scott Lemieux argues: I'm a liberal, and want a liberal to win, rather than a moderate who is percieved as a liberal. "Given that there are at least two good alternatives, I just can't see supporting a centrist candidate with a reputation as a liberal, and who also seems especially likely to mobilize what may otherwise be an undermotivated GOP base." (I also think that Hillary would poll particularly poorly against either McCain or Huckabee.) I reckon last night's results will pull the Dems a bit to the left, and I like that; I'll be voting for Mike Gravel when the time comes, but I don't mind rooting for Barak.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Excluding New York State and Southern Ontario-- which are too much of a part of my regular circuit to really count-- here's where I went in 2007: Miami, LA, Detroit, Northampton, Baltimore Pittsburgh, Ketchum, Laguna Beach, Bloomington, Holland (Michigan), Laguna Beach, New Orleans, Jacksonville. I'm surprised the list is so short, but it seems like I covered most of the country, one way or the other. I suppose the Southwest got short shrift, but in view of my aversion to Red State America I suppose that was to be expected. Assuming conference attendance as business travel the thing that is really unusual about this list is that it is pretty evenly divided between business and personal travel.

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