Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Although I've been involved with not-for-profits for a long time my involvement with grants and the grant process has largely been to be happy when the organization gets one. ELAB, the organization I am currently involved with, recently learned of a grant that New York State awards that sounded like something that fit perfectly with what we do and would like to do, and one of the requirements was that a board member attend a workshop. I had the afternoon open, so I volunteered. I don't want to knock free money, but the workshop was a colossal waste of time, and it didn't have to be.

New York's process for awarding grants has recently been restructured. There is a common application, which is a sensible thing. The process is initiated on the local level, by region-- Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, etc.-- then filtered up to the awarding agency in Albany. This paragraph is a distillation of the first hour of the program, and although there were a couple of other details, none of the rest of what what said really added to what the people present needed to know to apply for and receive money.

After the first hour we broke out into three groups. One group was for people whose organizations wanted money for "Business Assistance"-- financing, workforce development and public infrastructure projects. One group was for people who represented organizations that are involved with environmental projects-- sewer authorities, utilities, stuff like that. My group was for "Community Development" projects. At my breakout session there were representatives from the New York State Canal Corporation, the New York Department of State's Local Government Efficency Program, the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the Office of Parks anda couple of others. Several of the speakers made presentations on behalf of other offices as well-- the guy from the Canal Corporation was also there for the New York State Council on the Arts, which is where we'll be going. Here's the thing-- none of what any of these people had to say had anything to do with how to get the money. There were, of course, PowerPoint presentations, but all of these dealt with stuff that was on the most macro level conceivable-- things like the total dollar amount of the granting agency's budget, larded with technical detail that had no meaning to anyone who wasn't usually neck-deep in interaction with the agency on a daily basis. Things like restrictions on alienation for dedicated parkland for example. It was a bizarre waste of time, a fact that was punctuated by each speaker repeating, "More information is available on the website."

I talk for a living, but that's not unique to my glamor profession. None of these speakers betrayed enough interest in their presentations to deviate from their slides, and the slides were almost entirely irrelevant to the process we were there to learn about. $32 million dollars is available, and the agency will award up to 16 grants. Does that mean that the money is being ladled out in $2 million dollar packages, or does it mean that there'll be one $30 million dollar award and the rest of you can fight over the crumbs? Who knows?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Steve Howe is a cool flash guitarist, but for my money the only musician who was consistently interesting with Yes was the only guy who played on all of their records, and he's dead now. So long, Chris Squire. Your bass defined English prog rock.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The only thing that tempers my satisfaction-- just a little bit-- with the Supreme Court's rulings over the past few days-- marriage equality, fair housing, ACA, the stupid Daughters of the Confederacy thing-- is none of these should have been all that hard. I keep saying that it's where people end up that's important, and I believe that, but it should have to be so hard to get them to the right place.

The ACA decision was interesting because even though Roberts took the decision for himself, he didn't do that thing he does where he tries to make the outcome as narrow and specific as possible. As soon as I read that he wasn't going to base his reasoning on Chevron deference I knew that this one was easy for him, and why not? Guys that go to Harvard are supposed to understand statutory construction. I have a feeling that he wrote his Obergefell dissent more as a way to reassure his conservative pals that he is still on board with them than out of any particularly strongly held legal opinion, and for what it's worth he gets his social anthropology wrong. "[A] social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs" For real? What of all of the societies that were and are polygamous? If your argument is based on tradition than what that necessarily means is that you are cherry-picking the traditions you are choosing to respect. That's not how Equal Protection works, Your Honor. Thomas' dissent, on the other hand,is simply nuts-- I'm hard pressed to think of a more hateful Supreme Court justice ever."[H]uman dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because  the government allowed them to be enslaved.Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignitybecause the government confined them." You really think that?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A funny thing about all this craziness about Southern heritage is that there are actually a lot of great
things that the South has contributed to American culture. Lots of great writers, for one thing. A regional cuisine that stands with some of the best in the world. The blues, and jazz and rock and roll. Of course, it bears mentioning that many of these things were invented or perfected by African-Americans, either slaves or the decedents of slaves, but that's also kind of great-- the fact that from one of the worst things about America some of the best things emerged is worth celebrating.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This Dannemora prison break story has me thinking about it all the time. They've been out two weeks, so the odds are they are long gone, but I keep turning over pieces of it. Are they still together? I think probably yes. Together they may be more conspicuous, but if they split up they double the chances that they might be caught-- and either probably knows enough about the other to make completing the set more likely. At first I thought that they'd hole up in an empty cabin in the woods, but we are past Memorial Day, so people are opening up their camps, and the locals would surely notice if there were strangers about. there are cabins out there that people mostly don't know about, but Big Dick and his sidekick would have had to have either stumbled on something like that, or known about it before hand for that particular holing up in the woods plan to work, and that wouldn't be a good plan for more than a few days anyway. There were 800 cops scouring the woods in the Adirondacks -- the best idea would be to get out of there toot sweet.

Of course they might have made their way to the St Lawrence and found an island camp, but that presents a lot of the same issues. You'd have to hope that the camp you broke into was pretty well stocked with delicious Spam and Grandma Brown's baked beans, and you'd need a boat.

Transportation is the big issue. You can cover maybe 20 miles a day if you are bushwacking, and you'd probably want to be doing that, since you'd stand out like a fly on a plate on the roads. So that means a car. The woman they have in custody is said to have decided she couldn't go through with the original plan, which was along the lines of picking them up near the break-out point and driving them to a place seven hours away. Seven hours from Dannemora covers a lot of ground. One of the fellas is from Tonawanda, and the other (I can never keep straight which one has the huge penis) is from Deposit, and both of those are inside that seven hour circle. Of course, both of those would be poor choices, since people would be likely to recognize them. Slipping over into Canada presents its own problems. Neither of these guys impress me as being the outdoorsy type-- they are more the stone-cold sociopath type. One tortured and killed a guy, the other shot a cop and then ran him over to finish the job. They'd be good people to avoid, but, by the same token they are certainly trying to avoid other people. Other than homicide the crimes they are good at are chiefly petty theft, which will come in handy since it doesn't seem likely that they'd have a great deal of ready cash. I'm thinking that the accomplice probably came through with a car and some cash, and they've been swapping plates that they steal along the way. Plates are easier to steal, and less likely to be noticed quickly and reported.

If I were looking to swap cars I'd look for small independent used car dealers. I might even go in and ask to see a car, just figure out where the keys are kept and what the security looks like. The bigger the operation the more intense the security-- I'd be looking for a small town operation in a place like Medina. Ideally there wouldn't be a fence, and what I'd try to do would be to swap out the car I had with another that looked kind of similar-- white car for white car, Chevy for Chevy. Since I'm on the move what I am really trying to do is keep from being spotted, so if I get a day or three out of a car before the dealer figures out that the blue 04 Malibu over in the corner is now a 99 Nova, well, I'm long out of Astabula, Ohio anyway, and the Buckeye cops aren't too very likely to be spending a ton of time looking for a ten year old Malibu when there is an international manhunt searching for two killers on at the same time. Probably kids, you know?

Big Dick (I think) lived in Mexico for a while, and really liked it. I think probably that's where they are headed (who, after all, sits in prison dream of Saskatoon?) If it were me, I'd keep going, to Central America, maybe Nicaragua. But I'm not sure what the plan would be from there. Having just made it across North America, living on shoplifted Slim Jims and energy drinks what comes next? I'm betting  that neither of these guys has a 401(k). They've lived their whole lives on the theory that something will turn up, and when it has it has almost always taken the form of the police, usually after they've committed an atrocity. The planning that went into their present project-- and the sense of deferred gratification-- seems out of character for both of these guys, and right now it seems like they are probably improvising. That can't end well. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jeff Simon's Sunday column memorializing Ornette Coleman is just about the Jeff Simonyest thing ever. Allow me to summarize: Ornette Coleman was great. Me, Jeff Simon, never saw him live. Jeff Simon saw a lot of great jazz musicians live, here's a list. Here's some anecdotage, featuring someone I am related to.

I spent the weekend listening to Coleman's music, which is always fresh-sounding no matter how familiar it has become to me through repeated listening. He really did change the way music is played and listened to, and I am going to fill in some of the gaps in my collection soon. The soundtrack to Naked Lunch, and his Pat Metheny collaboration are two big holes. When a guy like that dies the way to remember him if you are someone who claims expertise is to point others down the path. Jeff Simon, unfortunately, made his column about Jeff Simon. Since that is pretty much what Jeff Simon's columns are always about we all know pretty much everything we need to know about Jeff Simon. A little more about Ornette Coleman would have been cool.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rest in peace, Ornette Coleman-- you taught us a new way to hear music.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Back in the day an album was not a trifling expense, and it wasn't so easy to discover cool new music. I'm talking about the early 70's here, before high school I guess. Back then the daily newspapers would occasionally run a review or two of a rock or pop record, and Robert Christgau was getting started, mercifully in Newsday, but if you were seriously looking for something a little different, something that wasn't Top 40 your go-to was going to be Rolling Stone. I know how weird this sounds today, but back then Rolling Stone was just barely a step above underground press, and it was absolutely an "alternative" publication. There were ads for rolling papers, and for places that would make you a Universal Life Minister, and-- best of all-- record reviews and advertisements for new releases that never made it to the radio, not even WLIR. An additional complication was that there weren't so many stores around that sold music. Grants, on Main Street, had, now that I think of it, a better selection than I gave it credit for at the time, but most of the time I had to go to Korvette's which was the next town over. Lots of times I'd read a review, or see an ad in Rolling Stone, then hunt fruitlessly for the record. This phase of my life ended once I started working in The City and had access to J&R Music, but that day was in the unknown future.

One summer-- it must have been 1972-- I was holed up in a bedroom in the cabin my family had rented in the Adirondacks reading a copy of  Rolling Stone when I came across an ad for, well, see for yourself:
Obviously this was big stuff. Man, I can still remember that day, the musty smell of the cabin and the pines. I set out to find a copy of The Album of the Year, but I was an undergraduate when I finally came across a copy of it in the cut-out bin at Buzzo's Music on Main Street in Geneseo. I rushed back to my dorm room clutching my treasure under my coat, slit the shrink wrap and dropped the needle on what I was sure was going to be pretty great.

It was, with the possible exception of John Cale's Vintage Violence, the worst record purchase I'd ever made-- not even worth the buck ninety-nine. It was so bad that my roommate laughed aloud about four bars in. It was so bad that I couldn't bring my self to play the second side until days later. At some point, years later, I read Christgau's review: "I won't get maudlin," Ackles promises midway into the second side, locking himself inside the barn as the dappled stallion gallops to join his brothers and sisters on the open range with his mane flying free in the breeze."

Christgau was generous. Sure, the lyrics are as sappy as a forest of birch trees, but OMG the music. You can listen to it on Spotify here, and maybe you should. Maybe I'm wrong. It seems to have acquired a kind of cult following, although, having just listened to it myself for perhaps the third time in over thirty years I cannot say that the passage of time has changed my opinion. I'm so, so happy that I didn't find it and spend $5.99 of my allowance money on it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

When I was a child my mother read me The Pokey Little Puppy. Although she denies it now, she improvised a good bit of it, and it is that improvisation that has stayed with me. Instead of reading verbatum she'd pitch her voice in a nasal whine and imitate the titular puppy saying, "Wait for me. Wait for me." By the time I was old enough to read The Pokey Little Puppy was not something I was interested in reading, so it was not until I had children of my own that I returned to this text. I was quite surprised that the lines my mom had ad libbed were not canon, but I decided that the gnostic version was superior and indoctrinated my kids with the whiny little pokey puppy. Others, it turns out, dislike the book as much as I do:
[It] seems like a fable: There are animals acting like people and punishment and reward and the “rule of three” structure. As a fable though, it’s incoherent.
On the first two days the Poky Little Puppy gets the desserts to himself—five portions of dessert a night, for a total of ten portions. On the third day, each of the other puppies gets one-and-a-quarter portions—they share the PLP’s serving—whereas the PLP gets none. Over three days, the Poky Little Puppy is up by eight-and-three-quarters desserts. What are we to conclude from this? That pokiness pays off? That pokiness might be highly advantageous in some circumstances but marginally costly in other, less common circumstances? Or that Janette Sebring Lowrey had no point in mind, was unconcerned with the ethics or pragmatics of pokiness, hoped only to borrow the fable form, with its weighty theme and didactic tone, and use it to disguise her lack of moral vision? 
In my family's version pokiness is despicable, and a trait associated with whining. I find that much more satisfying. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

I was over in court reading subpoenaed records dressed in an open collared button-down and a windbreaker.  When I came out of The Hall, the Attorney General was giving a presser, surrounded by people holding signs.

He is against corruption.

So I pulled out my notebook, took some pics, wrote a tweet, and stood there in the spitting wind, and when it was done I asked him a question.

I wanted to ask him why he kept saying that he'd introduced a reform package in the Legislature when he is a member of neither body, but that would have merely being a pendant. His proposals are good to excellent. So instead I asked, "Would we be correct when we assume that you have not found a sponsor in the Senate?"  He answered the way you'd expect, competently. They are talking to people over in the Senate. I expect that Cuomo is good with the proposals, but unless the Senate is going along nobody is going anywhere, and the rest more wind than the one that was flapping my trouser cuffs.

I think he is legit, but this felt rather contrived. I suppose it is true that this is an unusual moment, and that there may be greater than usual public concern about corruption than the usual sort of background usual-- but maybe something will happen. Inside baseball: Somebody asked him why the DA wasn't there. He said, "I don't know where Frank is," and wouldn't it be pretty if the nuance in that got around?

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