Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I have argued for some time that Bruce Springsteen long ago sank into irrelevance, but I was trying to be provocative. Now he's gone and proved it by signing on to play the Super Bowl Halftime show. Man, I feel old.

Monday, September 29, 2008

To Kathleen Edwards last night, at the Ninth Ward in Babeville. It is a smaller space than I would have anticipated, in the basement, and about the size of a basement rec room, but nicely done. The audience was mostly a mix of old hippies, Canadians and old Canadian hippies, and although I think of Kathleen Edwards as a personal discovery, these people felt far more proprietary.

She puts on a solid show. Her musical director, Jim Bryson, accompanied her on guitar and keyboards, and although friends we saw at the show tell us that she is great with a full band, in this setting they worked well as a duo. Bryson's guitar is a signature part of Edward's recorded sound, so that distinctive lead over her guitar was present throughout. Although I like her ballads well enough, it is the up-tempo stuff that brought me to her, and they did it all. She saved "Back to Me" till the end, a performance in which she invited two dudes from the audience (not the two guys in the Expos helmets) to take up the tambourine and the shaker that were on stage and provide rhythm support. They were surprisingly solid.

Our weekend music options had been Edwards or the B-52s at Rockin' at the Knox, then circumstances intervened and we had a different commitment for Saturday night. I am curious about the B-52s, but things worked out well for us.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

To LCA's parent/teacher night the other evening. They say you know you are getting old when cops start looking young, and I think there must be a similar principle at work here: for the first time I was older than all of my kid's teachers. (Maybe not the Music Theory teacher. Hard to say.)

On the whole our kids have had good experiences with their high school teachers. For the most part EGA and CLA had veterans, and the veterans they had were all the sorts of teachers who were there because they wanted to be. High school teachers are a different breed of cat, I think-- I teach because I am interested in the subject, and because I love The Law in Its Majesty. Good high school teachers love high school kids, and love teaching them about stuff that they are interested in. Maybe this is something that you are not aware of, but high school kids are pretty hard to take much of the time, and I am impressed with anyone who can do this job well. I am particularly impressed with teachers fresh out of college themselves who can do it, and it looks like that's what LCA has got.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It is difficult or me to imagine McCain being particularly coherent on the intricacies of the "bailout"-- I doubt that he has a very good grasp of the subject, and I suspect that he may well have blown it up as a deliberate ploy to avoid having to discuss it in anything more than soundbite depth.

Actually, I'd like to see anyone discuss this catastrophe in anything more than soundbite depth. Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have always impressed me as honest, hardworking, well-intentioned and intelligent, but they aren't economists. Neither is Dick Shelby, who has never impressed me as possessing any of the traits I just mentioned, except arguably intelligence. Arguably. I'd like some process here. I'd like to see some hearings, and if there is going to be a discussion in a room, I want to be able to watch it. I want it on the record, I want debates, and I want to get the sense that there is some sort of intelligent plan. We all know -- and yes, I'm looking at you, New York's Senate delegation-- what happened the last time you wrote this administration a blank check. Apparently Bush is irrelevant to this process-- whatever plan is settled upon will have to be passed by a veto-proof majority, because the sense I am getting is that the country isn't prepared to just take the Administration's word any more. 'Bout time. It is difficult to imagine a more thorough shambles than what we are looking at.

As for McCain, what we are seeing here, my friends, is a candidate who refuses to lose a war to win the Presidency, but will stop short of little else if that's what it takes. I've never liked his politics, but now we are learning that he is a despicable person as well.

A wants to move to Canada. I've always fancied the Netherlands. Or maybe Finland.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The death of David Foster Wallace has meant that I have been reading obits of David Foster Wallace, and revisiting some things that I hadn't seen the first time through. GJA twigged me to "The Broom of the System" when it came out, but Wallace* was a prolific guy, so there is quite a bit (including "Infinite Jest") that has gotten by me. This profile of John McCain, which ran in Rolling Stone in 2000, was new to me. In view of what has now become apparent about McCain I'd have to say that Wallace now appears naive. A lot of people were fooled, and Wallace at least gets to why that would be. Some people have suggested that McCain has changed, and ask what Wallace would have made of him today, but McCain didn’t change. People don’t change, not like that. Eight years ago he looked better than Bush because Bush was so completely out of his depth. Although I’m less inclined to believe that military experience is much of a qualification for national office than some are**, at least McCain had actual military experience; Bush was the worst kind of shirker***, and then he was technically a deserter and that told us something about his character. Although I am not so inclined to believe that being a senator is a strong selling point for a Presidential candidate, McCain had Washington experience, and that had to count for more than being a partial owner of the Texas Rangers. Although neither man actually went out and made their own money, at least McCain married his.

There was also the sense back then that McCain was running his own campaign, and that Bush was merely an anointed catspaw****. That’s changed– but it has changed because McCain has allowed it to. He’d have gone along eight years ago too, but it wasn’t his turn. Because he is hot-tempered (and spoiled) he came off as a straight talker because he mouthed off. That wasn’t honesty– it was a tantrum.

On his best day McCain is a mediocrity. He got caught in a financial scandal, and has based his career on that road to Damascus moment and his POW experience. McCain-Feingold is really his only legislative achievement, and it is mostly unconstitutional. He is unpopular in his party because he is kind of a jerk. Look at the toadying lickspitles he is friends with. Lindsey Graham, a tower of pudding. Joe Lieberman, a hissing and a byword. Across the aisle there’s John Kerry, a brother in arms who McCain has betrayed every single time it was convenient to John McCain to do so. Kerry’s judgment is implicated by his inclination to tap McCain for VP, but it says worse things about McCain that he denied being asked, and that he did nothing to halt the shameful swiftboat attacks made on Kerry. John McCain isn’t interested in anyone else, and is a servant to his own ambition. Always has been, probably. The one time in his life that he can point to as evidence to the contrary is the time in the Hanoi Hilton, and Wallace picks up on that, and writes movingly about it. When was the second time? Was it when he came home and found his shattered wife, then divorced her? Was it when he met the woman who was to become his second wife, and realized that with her money he could become anything? (Anything except an admiral.)

Was even that one time so noble? I believe that he was in horrible pain, to be sure. Probably he thought he was going to die; probably he wished he could die-- but could he have accepted the offer of early release? Wallace thinks that almost anyone would have, and that McCain did something heroic by thinking outside himself, but I'm not so sure. How do you go home like that? How does the son of an admiral go home and say, "I couldn't take it any more?" It's not just his family-- although it is not difficult to imagine him in his cell thinking, "I've fucked up everything else in my life. I wouldn't even be here if I hadn't fucked up. This is the final exam, Johnny boy. Get this right." If he had done anything else he couldn't have faced the shame of seeing his father, and he wouldn't have been able to face the shame of seeing his classmates and fellow officers-- his whole life was the Navy. Look at his mother, even today. Do you think for a minute that John McCain wanted to come home and tell his mother that he'd failed again? Watching her at the convention you couldn't help but imagine that she was thinking, "I hope this works out. It will make up for his leaving the Navy without achieving flag rank." How hard was it, really, to get being a POW right? Pain would have been nothing compared to having to live with the shame. So sure he suffered, but there doesn't seem to me to be anything extraordinary about it-- in his mind probably there really wasn't a choice. Maybe it seemed more remarkable to David Foster Wallace, whose brain chemistry betrayed him, and who proved to be unable to deal with existential pain. For a guy like McCain, what he went through was five years of being at the dentist. Hell, being a plebe was designed to make what McCain went through tolerable, and the notion of giving up unimaginable.

McCain hasn’t changed. He’s the admiral’s son, the guy who came home from the war and reckoned that he was entitled to a wife who was younger and prettier– and richer. He’s the guy who took the free vacations, and hung around with Charles Keating because that’s what you get to do when you are a senator. He is disrespectful to his current wife because he is disrespectful to all women– they exist as objects to him, as do reporters and staff. The fact that reporters and staff put up with it reflects on their personal self-esteem issues-- something that Wallace gets right*****. It is hardly a credential-- it just means he is a jerk. If the fawning press could get over it we would be in a better position to see it for what it is.

I suspect a lot of people say that they “used to like” McCain because they are unwilling to admit that they were wrong about him. It’s okay– he is a type, and that type has an appeal. Everybody gets fooled sometimes, and McCain has fooled a lot of people. But don’t kid yourself. He has always been prepared to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He is the same man he has always been.

Every four years I dig out something to read about a past election. Sometimes it is one of Teddy White's "Making of the President" series, a lot of the time because of how old I am it is something about the various Nixon campaigns. This year, because I spent some time with my Uncle Fred, the only other Norman Mailer fan I know, it was Mailer's account of the Kennedy convention, "Superman Comes to the Supermarket". This piece, by Michael Chabon, "Obama & the Conquest of Denver" is Maileresque, and is a bit more clear-eyed than Wallace's McCain article from eight years ago. Perhaps what is appealing about the Wallace article is that it is trying so hard to avoid being cynical. For me, I like EGA's recent quip: "I'm also probably going to go ring bells and talk to morons swing voters with my friend Susan's beau. (How could anyone possibly not know whom they're voting for? Don't these people watch TV?)". Every single thing about McCain's campaign has been so blatantly cynical and dishonest that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe him. Even if you agree with him on something -- assuming you can get his position on something to settle down long enough to agree with him-- how can you be confident that he means it? Once in his life he did the right thing, and on that basis he expects people to look past the rest? I don't get it. Are people that stupid? I suppose I know the answer, but I wish I didn't.

There is a great W.C. Fields bit in which he is asked how he got the name "Honest John". It is terrific mostly because it is the only filmed version of his famous pool table routine, and if you haven't seen it you should. Fields plays pool, and is brilliant, and as he chalks his cue, and does this and that he tells a long anecdote about how once in a bar a guy took out his glass eye and then later Fields found it and returned it. "And ever since that day," he says, "I've been known as Honest John." People say they want a candidate that is "like them", but they don't mean it. The Obama family has one car and one house. They went to fancy schools, but they went to them on their own records. They were nobody's legacies. Obama is his own invention, and American in a way, as he has pointed out, that can only happen in America. Families like the McCains are everywhere. There is nothing unique about being a military brat. There is nothing about going into the service because your father did and his father did that isn't something that they do in France or China, or Saudi Arabia or in any other country that has a military, which is all of them. Most of us don't go into the military, and as a result some of us fetishize it somewhat. Some of that may be liberal guilt. Because of my age I joke that people my age went into the military for one of two reasons: either they got a bad lottery number, or the judge gave them a choice. That's not completely true, of course-- I know a number of capable, qualified people who served honorably, and are today honorable individuals. None of them make a fetish out of anything but hard work, and now that I think of it, none of them married beer heiresses, so I guess that makes them just like us. Or more like us than Honest John McCain.

I'm not saying that this race should be about character-- what both Chabon and Wallace demonstrate pretty conclusively is that we can't really know anything about the true character of either of these men. Part of what I am saying is that the people who seem inclined to vote on "character" also seem to be backing the wrong horse, but what I really want to say is that character is the wrong question. If that is really the best that the the McCain people have then what they have essentially demonstrated is that they have no ideas-- none at all. This should come as no shock. Bush and Cheney had ideas, but they were all bad. McCain's idea is that it is his turn to be President, and if being like Bush is the way to get there, then he is completely prepared to throw any idea he ever had-- and it is not like there were ever a lot-- right over the side to get there.

* Perhaps the best way to remember him is to use footnotes.

**Recall that Gore volunteered, and served as an enlisted man. Military service was different for McCain-- although he also was, technically, a volunteer, he was a Service Academy legacy. It seems unlikely that McCain ever considered *not* going into the military. Gore went because it seemed to him the right thing to do. Clinton didn't because it didn't to him. Clinton was, technically, correct, which got him into hot water. Being technically correct often did that to Clinton.

***Bush? Pulled strings, Texas Air Guard, and when he found he didn't care for it, he ducked out.

**** Wallace would have loved the opportunity to use this word.

***** Last footnote. Read the article. Wallace was good, even when he was wrong. I'm sorry he is dead, because I enjoyed reading him. I enjoy a lot of his contemporaries more, even though I hate them all because I am not one of them, but Wallace was unique and valuable. It is a shame that he didn't leave us with more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This headline: "Run-D.M.C., Metallica nominated for Rock Hall
The Stooges, Chic, Jeff Beck, War also among possible inductees
" very nicely captures why the whole idea of a rock hall of fame is stupid. To the extent that the contributions of particular artists are even sufficiently quantifiable to make such an award, how bizarre is it to see a sentence that lumps these artists together? And how nuts is it that Jeff Beck, indisputably among the greatest rock instrumentalists is relegated to the "also" sub-head?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mad props to GJA, who completed the Sydney Marathon in a family record 4:32.37.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Isn't it interesting that this year the Presidential race has such a Western orientation? McCain, of course, even though he isn't really of Arizona (born in the Canal Zone, a military brat who went to Episcopal High School in Alexandria and Annapolis for college. (In a way McCain is really more from the DC area than anywhere else. Cindy talks about being a single parent, which doesn't sound like he spends all that much time in the Grand Canyon State.) Palin is from the ultimate Western State-- Alaska is more Texas than Texas. And despite what Cokie Roberts says, Hawaii is likewise a Western State. This has happened before-- LBJ and Goldwater spring to mind-- but it still seems to say something about the frontier in the American mythos.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shea Stadium is the second oldest ballpark in the National League. Just a fluke, really-- Wrigley is the oldest, of course, but the Nationals went on a building spree in the 60s and 70s. The Mets came into the league at the same time as the Houston Colt 45s, who played at Colt Stadium until the Astrodome was finished. Shea opened in April of 64, in time for the season. The Astrodome opened in November. It was the first place I saw a big league game-- my folks had been Dodger fans, and we were a National League family. The fashion of naming ballparks after people has largely gone out of vogue, but I have always like the fact that the Mets played in a stadium named after a lawyer: Bill Shea, of Shea & Gould, brought National League ball back to the City (and hockey to Nassau County-- it'd be a nice gesture if the Coliseum were to be renamed for him). It is still a little hard for me to get my mind around the fact that there is no more Shea & Gould-- they were a classy shop-- and now there won't be a Shea Stadium any more either. Funny to think that there is no monument to the man, stranger still that the stadium outlived the law firm.

As a ballpark what Shea had going for it was that it was a ballpark. The sight lines were okay, but it was somewhat sprawling, so there wasn't really that sense of being right on top of the action that you get at newer parks (or older parks). I suppose this was part of why it was such a good pitcher's park-- the big foul territory had to have helped. When you consider the players who took the mound in the Mets colors it is pretty remarkable that none ever pitched a no-hitter there. I've been to plenty of ballparks I like better, but Shea was my home field. It's where we saw Gary Carter hit an extra inning walk-off home run on Opening Day to win his first game as a Met. (We had field level seats that day. It was freezing. Neil Allen, who had gone to the Cards the year before in the trade that brought Keith Hernandez to the club had spotted some people he knew sitting in the row in front of us and came over to chat with them about a prospect they knew, and what a "bird dog scout" had to say about him.) We were in Row U for Game Six. (The guys behind us, Boston fans, were pretty vocal. Throughout the game they chanted, "We. Are. Row V!" When Dave Henderson hit his home run in the top of the 10th to put the Sox ahead one of them yelled, "They're going put a statue of that guy in Copley Square!") We were there when Kirk Gibson hit his homer in the 88 NLCS. And there were plenty of games before those seasons, when the best reason to go was because the city was like Calcutta, and Shea was a place to catch a breeze. The New York Roadrunners had a race that started in the parking lot, when out past the National Tennis Center, around Flushing Meadows Park and back, down the third base line and across home plate, where you were greeted by Mr. Met. EGA, GJA and I ran it a few times-- you got a ticket to that evening's game, too. I'll miss it.

UPDATE I am not alone in my affection for the Big Shea. Paul Lukas chimes in, on a make-or-break weekend for the Metropolitans, with a homage to the place, including a few details that I was unaware of.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The way it works with Netflix in our household is that I'll see a reference to a movie that looks like it might be interesting and add it to the queue. Then A. will think to herself, "It has been several months since we have seen X," and she will add something. Then LCA will add something, and then CLA will come home and shuffle the whole works so we have three full seasons of "One Tree Hill" or something. Occasionally one of my picks sneaks through and percolates to the top, but by the time it does I have no idea why I thought the movie sounded interesting. Thus it was that "Zulu" appeared in our mailbox. It wasn't until the words, "and introducing Michael Caine" appeared in the credits that I had any notion of what might have piqued my interest. And, to be honest, I'm not so sure that's what it was. Caine has mostly only been notable to me in the past by reason of his ubiquity. Come to find out I've been under-rating him. He is fine in "Zulu", which is a better movie than I'd have ever guessed, but what really jumped out at me was how pretty he was-- he looks like an English Robert Redford. We've embarked on a little Michael Caine festival now-- I'd never seen "Alfie" before, and now that I have I'm starting to get it. Caine's oeuvre is vast and sequel-filled, but he is a real pro, a pleasure to watch, even when the movie itself is nothing much. When he has something to work with, as he did in "Alfie", he brings all kinds of nuance. It is a happy thing to find something like that-- an artist with a large body of work that you can dive into and enjoy. I read novelists like that once, and I suppose I will again at some point-- Sir Walter Scott, or Anthony Trollope-- someone with a long shelf that I can work my way through. For now an evening with "Get Carter" or "The Man Who Would Be King" will suffice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What did yesterday's primary tell us? Well, starting with the 144th Assembly District, maybe people are telling the truth when they say that they don't care about the sex lives of their elected officials. When Barbara Kavanagh announced that she was running against Sam Hoyt I was puzzled. Hoyt had supported Barbara when she ran for City Council, and there really didn't seem to be any substantive difference in their policy positions. This turned out to be a situation where inside information led to poor decision making. Everybody in politics knew about Hoyt's infidelities, but you didn't have to be too far outside to be in the dark-- I didn't know about it until about six months ago, which is still before the story broke wide, but not by much. When the story did break it became clear that Barbara was either taking advantage of Hoyt's personal life, or was being used as a catspaw by others who were. It was an ugly campaign, and it didn't work.

We also learned that name recognition counts for a lot. Frank Sedita III unquestionably benefited from the fact that people have been voting for the Sedita brand for three generations. Good luck to him-- the District Attorney's Office needs work.

Nice to see that Darth Volker's act is wearing thin. I've never understood his appeal. He came into the office as a former State Trooper who promised to restore capital punishment (motto: "Kill, kill, kill them all!"). His death penalty law turned out to be about as lethal as a cap pistol-- more felons died of aspirin poisoning than were executed in New York*, and a good thing, since the law turned out to be unconstitutional. It may be that we will have to abolish the New York State Senate to get rid of Volker. Both would be fine with me.

Finally, congratulations to Alice Kryzan. With my congressperson, Louise Slaughter, this has the potential of being the best Western New York congressional delegation in history. Negative didn't work in the 26th, and that makes me a little more optimistic about the democratic process than I usually am.

* New York did not execute anyone under Volker's law.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There's been more than a little bit of snark in the air about the new Burchfield-Penny Art Center. Actually, people have been complaining about it for a few years. A lot of the bitching has to do with the fact that the museum presents a blank wall towards Elmwood Avenue. It is true that things like parking garages and similar structures are poor urban design because they do not invite pedestrians and passersby in, but this argument is somewhat misplaced in the case of the Burchfield-Penny because this structure is located on a college campus. The entrance-- the front of the building-- faces in towards the campus quadrangle, and I think that's how it should be. The carping critics also overlook the fact that as presently situated the museum avoids having a big, barren parking lot in front, the way the Albright-Knox does.

I suspect that the complaining will fade once people have an opportunity to see the part of the structure that matters. The Burchfield people kindly let us do a fashion shoot for Spree there over the weekend, and I'd like to be among the first to tell you that this is spectacular space. The attention to detail is jaw dropping-- it is one of the most attractive new buildings I can recall seeing. The Burchfield-Penny was not really one of my favorite arts attractions in Western New York, but now it will be. This is a major, major addition to our cultural life here in Buffalo, and will seriously enhance the city's reputation as an arts destination. The people who put the work in to make this possible deserve to be stopped and thanked whenever you see them at Wegmans or wherever, because this is going to be like adding another Albright-Knox to our city.

A and I were 18 and 19 at our polling place this morning at about 8:15. That's kinda low in our district, particularly with heated contests for Assembly and District Attorney.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A. was in Chicago for a DRI meeting last week. She had a positive experience, but noted that the other lawyers from Buffalo-- one of whom she used to practice with-- were distinctly chilly in their demeanor. This is something I've noticed too, and it seems unusual. At a big national conference the lawyers who practice in the same cities are usually pretty friendly towards each other, and in smaller groups they frequently invite their competitors to participate in the meetings that they host. I was slated to speak at a Buffalo CLE later this month, and just learned that it has been canceled due to poor enrollment. The Bar Association person told me that all of their Buffalo programs struggle, and thatthey can run the exact program in NYC and sell every seat. I think this is part of the same picture. The fact is that an invitation to participate in a New York State Bar Association program in New York is regarded as a feather in one's cap, but around here it is viewed as akin to someone asking for your grandmother's secret recipes.

It isn't that the practice here lacks civility-- bench and bar in the Eighth Judicial District routinely extend courtesies and treat each other cordially for the most part. There is a paranoid mindset at work here that I think compromises us, and I think it is deeply ingrained. I'm guilty of it myself, but at least I recognize it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Joe Biden proves his worth. This campaign is smart, I'm telling you. Obama stays the course, he keeps it classy, and they stay on message. I'm no kind of Biden fan-- I think he is Exhibit A in how the Senate can turn a right thinking cat into a glad-handing pile of fluff. (McCain is on that exhibit list too.) Here, however, he keeps the discussion centered. He doesn't fall for the trap, he doesn't make it about personalities. If they can keep doing this it will work, because there is a limit to how far the stuff McCain/Palin will work.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Shawn Matlock's observation about the effectiveness of billboard advertising is spot on. Mr. Matlock, a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney comments that the billboards in his area that say “Drink. Drive. Go to jail” are not really intended to be informational-- in fact, the information which they convey is incorrect. The signs are actually intended to "contaminate the jury pool" in his phrase. Maybe "comtaminate" is strong, but I don't think "taint" is quite strong enough. "Educate" doesn't seem right either. We've seen something similar in Western New York.

When I moved to the Queen City of the Lakes civil verdicts here were significantly lower than verdicts in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Staten Island verdicts are different, and the Bronx is completely different, but Buffalo verdicts, although higher than in Onondaga County (Syracuse), or Monroe County (Rochester), were more in line with the sort of numbers you could expect to see in those other upstate cities. Now that is no longer true. What changed?

Quite a few things changed, actually, but one significant thing that happened was that attorney advertising went from the Yellow Pages to the highways and the airwaves. Certainly these ads are intended to heighten name recognition for the lawyers who run them, but that's not all that they have done. Because the ads frequently include references to verdict amounts juries around here are now conditioned to think in terms of verdict amounts that are substantially greater than in years past. I am sure this effect was unintended, but it is certainly real, and now even the plaintiffs' lawyers who don't advertise derive a benefit from it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

On our sojourn into the heart of Red State America last week included attending a performance of "The Day Boy and the Night Girl" a musical based on a story I'd never heard of by George MacDonald, a Scottish writer from the nineteenth century who I am mostly unfamiliar with. (He wrote "The Princess and the Goblin", which I know I read as a child. I seem to recall that I didn't like it.) It appears that the adaptation was pretty faithful, and I suppose there were things to admire about the production, but when it was over EGA summed it up nicely. "Well, that was theater-y," she said, and it certainly was.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

About a year ago we settled an infant's case. It wasn't a lot of money; it wasn't much of a case. When you settle a case brought on behalf of a minor the court has to approve it, and the money has to be put in a trust until the child turns 18. The ordinary practice is to have the money deposited in a savings account with the bank and a parent as co-trustees, but when we can we like to purchase an annuity for the kid. You get a better rate of interest that way, and sometimes the court will let you extend the payout until age 21, which can be helpful with things like college financial aid. This afternoon I got a call from the mother on this particular case. Her daughter just had a baby, and wanted to know if she could get the money early. I didn't really remember the girl, so as I leafed through the file to find the settlement order I asked how old she is now.

16. That is, she will be 16 next month. I mention it because it seems to me that Bristol Palin-- and the whole Palin family-- are a whole lot more mainstream than a lot of people seem to think. It's very droll to observe that "Sarah Palin's first child was born 8 months after she suddenly eloped. Maybe the baby was slightly premature, but it could be that getting knocked up is the traditional engagement ritual in her family. That would have matched how things worked in my home town, where the traditional high school graduation present was a bassinet." Remarks like that reflect just how divorced from American life liberal Democrats have become. I don't care to race snowmobiles, or sport a mullet, but lots of Americans do, and the fact that I don't understand why goes a long way towards explaining why I am so bad at predicting electoral outcomes.

I explained to the mom that selling the annuity would require court approval, and that they really couldn't expect much of a return on it. She understood-- I think she is probably pretty used to getting bad news.

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