Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

From Louis Menand, The "small number of proper names which must, in all circumstances, be preceded by Mr.:

Mr. Rogers
Mr. Shawn
Mr. T
Mr. Tambourine Man
Mr. Tibbs

Ike Turner is Jewish?

I am very much digging the PBS Blues program so far. There is a sense in which documentary about music frustrate me-- I want more of the performance, less of the blah, blah, blah. I mean, that's Muddy Waters! Let's hear him. I thought Wim Wenders film last night was very well done-- the hand cranked camera effect worked well. The Steve and Ronnog Seaberg footage of J.B. Lenoir, and the story they told about it was remarkable stuff. As an aside, we have been talking about Sweden in the 60's here, in connection with the Martin Beck mysteries-- the Seaberg's would have fit in well as characters in those books. Much has been made about how the audience for this music is white-- and it doesn't get too much whiter than folks like Wenders or the Seabergs. This is certainly music that arises from the African American experience, but it comes as well from the "weird, old America" that Greil Marcus writes about. I was particularly struck by the fife and drum stuff featured in Scorsese's segment on Sunday-- there is a lot Bob Dylan learned, or heard somewhere, in this music.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

I think I've about had it with Gregg Williams. What is it that he is supposed to do well? I'm seeing stupid penalties, which to me means bad preparation. I'm seeing stupid play calling, stupid clock management, and stupid mistakes. This is a Bills team with a lot of talent, and a lot of experience. This is a coaching staff that should be one of the best in the league. Last week in Miami is one thing-- the Dolphins were up against it, and are tough at home any time. This week, I am at a loss to account for. There is no way that a Bills team with as much talent as this one possesses should get beat up by this Eagles team at home. 296 passing yards, and this is what they have to show for it? It is early to give up on the season, but 2-2, is not good, not good at all. Two weeks ago I thought that the toughest games on the schedule were all within the division. If they keep playing like this, though, they'll all be tough. It is over for the Jets, and Miami will fade. The Bills have the edge over New England at the moment, but they close out the season there, and if it comes down to that game, as I said I thought it might earlier, well, that could be ugly. In the AFC East, I think, you gotta win the division if you want to keep playing. The Bills can't lose home games against teams like Philly and expect to be playing in January. Bengels and Jets coming up, home and away, respectively, followed by Washington at home and KC on the road. Two weeks ago three out of four of those looked like wins. Washington is proving to be an acid test for the division right now, even though they don't seem like that good a team. I'd say that game will come down to coaching, and right now I'm not happy with the match up. Cincinnati or the Jets set up as possible upsets, and the Chiefs look legit.

I shoulda watched Women's World Cup instead. Norway's always tough.....

To the Linda Yalem 5K this morning. I haven't run in all of these, and I haven't even got an unbroken string of them, but it is a race I like, and I have made a point of running it since I've been teaching, because I think it is an important event in the UB community. I gave blood yesterday, so I wasn't expecting a world beating performance, but I was pleased with what I turned in. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for this sort of event, clear, just cool enough, with the humidity washed out of the air by a torrential downpour about three hours before the gun went off. KRAC chef de cuisine David Nuzzo was in the house as well-- next week is the team banquet, and I am looking forward to that the way I used to anticipate Christmas.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Just the fact that there was a George Plimpton made the word a funnier, more intelligent place. Don't kid yourself that it was all a stunt, either: Plimpton wrote with more insight and wit about being a male American in the late 20th century than almost anyone. I think part of the secret was that he knew exactly how to treat subjects that most people either take too seriously, or don't take seriously enough. Paper Lion remains one of the two or three best books ever written about the NFL. Golf is easier, but The Bogey Man is hilarious, with its fantasy descriptions of the Japanese admirals that live in his head hollering into speaking tubes: "Keep your head down! Keep your wrists locked!" As I am writing this, there is a copy of Mad Ducks and Bears on the window sill behind me-- a good example of how Plimpton was able to use other people's voices to create his own unique voice.

Think about his interview with Ernest Hemingway for the Paris Review-- or the Paris Review itself, one of the coolest projects of the late twentieth century-- and it was all him.

I met him once, after a talk he gave at the Bay Shore Brightwaters Public Library. He was clever, and urbane, but approachable (what was I 16? But he took the time to talk to me). 76 is too young. I already miss him as though he were a friend. Who wouldn't want to be George Plimpton? A better athlete than he pretended to be, a skilled writer, a charming man who went places and did things, and made it all look easy.

Because I'm a man, when I catch a cold, I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan. You never get as sick as I do, so for you this isn't a problem.

Dahlia Lithwick on the Lee Boyd Malvo case says that there is a plausible argument for a brainwashing defense in mitigation during the penalty phase of the trial. From the way she describes the prosecutor's plan of proof, I'd say that it's about all the defense has to work with, and I wish them luck-- there is no good outcome possible here, but I think it is deplorable that Ashcroft has maneuvered this trial into Virginia so that this 17 year old boy can be death penalty eligible. The crimes were horrible, absolutely, but Ashcroft runs DOJ like an abattoir, and it disgusts me that this is the policy of my government. Lithwick goes on to ask: "If this impressionable young man really was yanked from his family and friends, isolated from outside influences, and inculcated with hatred, greed, and a lust to kill, does that absolve him of the evil he committed? Does it at least mitigate against executing him? Can one be so enthralled by another that one's own true self is lost? And if that is the case, is there any reason to believe that the "real" Malvo could ever be regained? This leaves jurors to make a near-impossible decision about evil and character, about redemption and free will and determinism; about whether a child can be morally ruined to the point that he should be discarded. These are more theological questions than legal ones. But perhaps that is also ultimately fitting for a jury that will be deciding whether a young man will die."

See, and that's where I disagree. I believe in the legal system, I really and truly do, but there are things that it is not suited to, and answering theological questions is at or close to the top of the list. (Actually, as to theological questions, I put it to you that these are incapable of answer; and, further, that the purpose of theology is merely to pose questions to which faith is the only response. But I digress.) Crime is a social problem, and punishment-- whether it is retributive or rehabilitative, or merely intended to protect society from the possibility of further harm from the individual criminal-- has to be focused on the social questions raised-- not on angels dancing on pin questions about the nature of evil. For me there is no question that executing this boy is wrong-- the sorts of places that do that sort of thing are the sorts of places that Americans deplore. Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, China-- if you look at the list of countries that still have capital punishment, what you see is a litany of utter despair. Is putting a 17 year old boy in prison for life any better? As horrible as it sounds, I believe it is. The range of possible outcomes, while limited, is still better than just one more dead person out of all the tragedy. He might become a spiritual person. He might become an example of repentance to others. He might die at the hands of another prisoner, or endure a lifetime of abuse. Perhaps he will simply be a mad dog killer, who should never be allowed out again, but if that is the outcome, then at a minimum we will have prevented him from hurting any more innocent people. You may say, "We shoot mad dogs," and I say, yes, that is true. But this is a 17 year old boy, not a dog, and that has to make a difference. If you believe that our humanity makes us different from every other thing that creeps or crawls or walks or flys, then it should make a difference for Lee Boyd Malvo.

And now, having said all that, I must admit that I'd make exceptions. How Malvo can be distinguished from any other terrorist seems to me to be a fair question, and terrorists are where my list of exceptions start. Torturers-- I'd say the Canadians showed more restraint than I could have in the Paul Bernardo- Karen Homulka matter.

Not easy questions, and the law has to have a response, if not an answer. In the end, this is why the law's greatest strength is its advisarial nature-- we are more about making arguments than we are about making rules.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I've been trying to think about what to say about the JetBlue passenger privacy flap. Tim Noah says it well: lay off. I love JetBlue. I fly JetBlue at least once a week, and they are always nice to me. I cherish my anonymity, for the most part, but when the woman behind the counter remembers me, every time, and gives me my favorite seat, every time, I don't mind that my privacy is sacrificed-- not a bit. There is no privacy on airplanes. You have to show ID, and take off your shoes. If you go to the lavatory everyone on the plane knows about it. Privacy is important, but I love JetBlue, and I'd forgive them lots worse things.

KRAC Athletic Director Jim Jarvis read my post about places to eat in Columbus, and made inquiries. His source reports: "For a real local treat you must eat at Blue Danube know as "the dube", famous for absolutely nothing but definitely local just north of campus on High Street. If [you] wants classy any Cameron Mitchell place such as Columbus Brewery co., Ocean Club, Columbus Fish Market, Mitchell's Steak house. If [you want] an old time Steak house the Claremont on South High. German is in German Village at Schmidt's Sausage House. Italian, furgetaboutit go to Tony's in the Brewery district. Breakfast, Nancy's in Clintonville, they call you honey, the menu is on the wall and there is no bill you just tell her what you had."

I wish we'd known about any of these, and next time I'll know to ask before I go. I figure the next time I'm likely to be in Columbus-- well, let's put it this way. Someday I want to run a marathon, and the Columbus Marathon is supposed to be a good one. Unfortunately, if the KRAK experience with the Utica Boilermaker is typical, although I'll have a decent meal, I won't exactly be chowhounding. Still, you never know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Last night I was obliged to go to an Barnes & Noble Store out in the 'Burbs. CLA has been assigned a book for her English class, and our city based, locally owned independent bookstore didn't have it. Her teacher had announced that Barnes & Noble did, but that turned out to be a canard. As I scoured the shelves, trying to see if a copy had, perhaps, found its way onto a different part of the store (Barnes & Noble employs a frustrating sort of ontology-- more Blockbuster Video than Library of Congress, if you know what I mean), I saw a fat kid in the German History section. He was maybe about CLA's age-- somewhere between 12 and 15, I'd say, wearing a Nintendo sweatshirt and a camo porkpie hat. I saw him pick up a copy of Mein Kampf , and later, after we had determined that they didn't have what we had come for, I saw him at the checkout. My thought at the time was that this was a pathetic loser kid, but that at least he was buying it, instead of shoplifting it. I thought of him again today, when I read about the latest development in the Anna Lindh murder investigation. It seems that the Swedish police have released the neo-Nazi drifter they picked up shortly after the murder, and have arrested a new suspect.

People who visit here really should be visiting my law partner's site as well, of course. She is married to a Swede, so naturally this story is one that we have both been following. At the time she posted her first take on this horror she said to me that she thought it was peculiar that the surveillance camera photograph of the original suspect did not show him blood splattered. We speculated that perhaps this was because the photograph that was released to the media (or that the media chose to run) showed the man as he was entering the department store where the crime was committed, rather than as he was leaving the scene. Still, the whole thing, I think, struck both of us as a bit odd. The guy seemed tailor made for the arrest-- he seemed to fit a profile, but he didn't seem to fit the crime. People have been quick to say that this was a political crime, and maybe it was, but it doesn't seem like one to me, and I have a funny feeling that the first arrest may have been a triumph of over-thinking.

My partner's husband (I suppose I should go to initials or nicknames with them at some point), is not the best commentator on this sort of question. He can be a bit dogmatic, and that's not really what I am looking for here. Frankly, the whole thing looks more and more like a Martin Beck type situation to me, and I mean that the way I mean it when I say that any real life circumstance seems to be mirrored or anticipated by a work of art. It's funny-- I know quite a few Swedes, and Swedes are, in general, avid readers, but the Beck books do not seem to be something that very may of the people I am acquainted with have read. My brother introduced me to them-- they are, I think, almost as good as Raymond Chandler, and they speak to what Europe-- and the '60's-- were like as well as just about anything I've read-- at least, to the extent that I can tell. Marlowe's LA seems real to me, and accurate, for what it is. Per Wahloo¶and Maj Sjowall's Stockholm made the Stockholm I saw as instantly familiar to me as Hammet's writting did for me when I saw San Francisco. It doesn't look like too much has changed.

There is a lot that can be said about all of this, and I want to think some more about it, but one of the things that I want to think about is what all of this means about the differences between Europe and the US. Another is how both places are still very much the same. Some years ago the international bar association in which we were active had its annual conference in Washington, D.C.. At that time several of the European lawyers commented on the fact that Mein Kampf was available in bookstores, and in the open stacks in libraries. It isn't in Europe, apparently, and I remember joking about it. "We can't have that around-- you know how we get." Of course, I was a teenage smartass, so I've read the hateful thing-- although, to be honest, all I can remember of it is that it was hateful, even to a teenage smartass. I'm glad that I live in a place where something like that is available to teenage smartasses, or lardass losers-- I think that it is important that we believe that good ideas should be strong enough to stand up to that sort of wrongness. "A little sunlight is the best disinfectant," said Justice Brandeis, and I'll buy that, although, having been to Rotterdam, I can see why having Mein Kampf around in stores and libraries might be a little more offensive than my high-mindedness and off-hand manner might allow.

Still, I worry that the kid in the Nintendo shirt and camo porkpie hat is the sort of person that John Ashcroft might profile for a crime, because he didn't have the wit to shoplift Mein Kampf , and paid for it instead. I don't think for a moment that our cops are any brighter than the SAPPO-- I've read the Beck books, and I know better. Where does this leave us? I hate the idea of thought crimes. I don't see how that can possibly fit with the jurisprudence of freedom that we have spent over two hundred years developing, and I hate that I live in a time where my country seems to be going down that road. You can live in Sweden, but it doesn't change anything. Isn't it better to live in the US? And if it isn't, shouldn't it be?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

John Coltrane's birthday. The last time I was on Long Island I was a short walk from the cemetery where he is buried. I keep meaning to visit, but somehow time is always too short.

Monday, September 22, 2003

One other thing about Columbus, before I forget-- what do people eat there? For the most part, everything we saw looked like local college pizza joints, or chains. There were some Asian restaurants that looked like they might be fun to explore-- Pakistani, particularly-- but nothing that had the look of a local jewel. Roadfood mentions Columbus not at all, which means that this is like the white space on an old map-- exploration is called for! We had breakfast on the way out at Cafe Mozartwhich was okay, and we had late lunch/dinner at a place called Max and Erma's which we were hoping was local, but turned out to be a chain out of Dayton. It was adequate, I'd say, but certainly nothing more.

Can't run, can't stop the run. I'll say this, that was the best running game I have seen by Miami, ever. I have no idea what Greg Williams is thinking, but my suggestion is that he stick with plain vanilla. THe trick stuff isn't working for him, and is now starting to cost him.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Sua Sponte on law student super powers. I'm sure there were powers that I'd have prefered, but bilocation would come in handy in practice, for sure.

To the Women's World Cup yesterday. This was A.'s good idea; it would never occur to me to go to Ohio. In fact, this was my first time in the Buckeye State. Canada came out strong in the opener, playing a very physical brand of football that seemed to throw the Germans off their game. The teams went into their locker rooms at the half tied 1-1, but the Canadians looked, to me, to be dominating. The Germans were having difficulty getting their methodical attack uncorked-- but when they came out for the second half, it was clear that they had found their game, and were through being pushed around. At the end, it was 4-1 Germany, and it wasn't even that close.

We were pumped up for the second match, Japan v. Argentina, and what we got was a young, fast Japanese team using the entire field and completely dominating an Argentine side that started playing angry, frustrated ball early, and ended, following a red card, playing shorthanded for about 3/4ths of the match. This was mostly a ground game, in contrast to the Canada-Germany match, where a great deal of the play was about keeping the ball in the air and controlling it there. The Japanese women had a precise passing style that was breathtaking-- somehow, there was always someone there. The Argentine women were stuck trying to doubleteam faster players. The shots on goal tell the story: Japan had a 21-1 advantage. The play of the night was a brilliant header by Mio Otani, who was parallel to the ground, and about two feet above it when she struck a crossing shot into the net. I don't think I've ever seen a shot like it.

It was an interesting crowd. Mostly local, I'd say, mostly families with daughters, like ours; but with a smattering of supporters from the teams' countries-- I'd say there were about two hundred Japanese there. The remainder of the crowd were serious soccer fans-- people who have been to other World Cups, and other international matches. Some of these people looked like coaches or gym teachers. There were also a number of athletic looking women in their early 20's-- college players, perhaps, or recent grads, often there with their buff, buzz cut boy friends. Actually, I'd say that the fans in attendance were unusually fit looking, which was kind of cool. The average Bills fan is as big as Rubin Brown. These people resembled the players too, but in a good way.

My sense was that the local folk were part of an active soccer scene. Columbus is home to the first stadium built specifically for Major League Soccer, and it is a nice facility. I'd thought that we would be seeing the games at the Ohio State Stadium, but the Buckeyes were running off their 18th consecutive win, and the 20,000 or so soccer fans would have been lost in the cavernous 101,568 seat pile on the banks of the Olentangy River. Even though I'd have thought there'd be a bigger turnout for something like this, and even though the league has just suspended, I think there is a market for this sport, and I think it is growing. They could sell it smarter-- we'd have popped for team jerseys, for example, but there were none available. What's up with that, FIFA? The lines were long, and slow, and the selection was spotty-- I'd have to say that men drive the sports buck most of the time, so having some shirts available in men's sizes just makes sense.

On the other hand, at the end of the matches, players were happy to sign autographs for the people standing at the rail on the edge of the field. They seemed flattered with the attention, and the overall effect was charming. These are world class athletes, but they weren't jerks about it-- they were transformed from the athletic elite into nice twenty something year old womenwhen the game was over. The effect was big sisterly. Find a way to keep that, and the sport will always have a place.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Before she left, EGA was mulling over whether to register to vote in New York or Massachusetts. She wanted to be able to maximize the impact her vote would have in the primaries, where timing is often crucial. From the looks of things, though, at least as far as timing goes it will be a wash: the Bay State and the Empire State both go to the polls on March 2, 2004. For once, both states will probably be right in the thick of things. It looks to me like the field will still be pretty commodious by then, although I wouldn't bet on Kerry still being a part of it. He's looking more and more like Edmund Muskie, and that is not a good thing. Clark's entry into the race cancels out the only strength Kerry really had-- it is a fine thing to be a decorated veteran, but Clark trumps him. Clark must be planning to to run a low budget campaign, hoping that decent early showings help him raise the money he'll need for Super Tuesday-- big veteran populations in some of those states should help him, hurt Edwards. Edwards has the dough to hang on, though, and Sharpton doesn't need money-- his notoriety is what keeps him going. Hard to know what will happen to Graham-- Florida votes March 9, and he might hang on until then. I'd say that EGA's registration decision should turn on which state will matter more in the general election, in which case, I'd say she will be voting absentee.

It seems to me that Clark's entry is getting a lot more hype than his realistic prospects warrant, perhaps because the journalists covering the race are looking for a story. Political journalism that approches its subject like a horserace is deplorable, but inevitable. As far as it goes though, I don't see Clark really hurting Dean-- Clark's argument is "I'm electable". Dean's argument is, "I stand for things that Bush opposes." It may or may not be true that Dean can't be elected-- he's banking on the ideas that he stands for being more popular than people think. I'd say that's a better way to win-- Gore failed to sufficently distinguish himself in the minds of too many, but there'll be no confusion between Dean and Bush, for sure.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Like my law partner, I have been thinking about the murder of Anna Lindh. Although I've spent some time in Scandinavia, I can't claim the same sort of familiarity that she does: I've been to Stockholm, I know some Swedes; I've been to Helsinki, I know some Finns. Forced to choose, I'd pick Finland, although it's hard to say why: the difference between Lasse Viren and Björn Borg perhaps. I also came to Stockholm and found it familiar because I'd read the Martin Beck mysteries. In my travels I have found that early in any conversation with fellow members of our glamour profession who practice in other jurisdictions I will be told one or the other of two things. Both are true, and both are false; both are chilling, but also oddly reassuring. Sometimes I am told, "Our countries are much alike." Sometimes I am told, "Our countries are very different." Even though the junkies in Stockholm are unionized, their neighborhood is a bad one to be in. Even though the Swedes pride themselves on the openness of their society, there are still child killings, and every other sort of violent crime that man has devised since Cain. Swedes like to point out that their national character comes from the fact that they are a small country, and to hear them describe it you'd think that six million people is intimate. It's not intimate: it's Brooklyn. There is all kinds of room in six million for every kind of saint and every kind of lunatic. And every kind of tragedy, I suppose. We are all alike. We are all different.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

EGA writes: "Lunch today was bread with sauce, so Leah and Nina and I went to the campus center for a treat. On the way there, we passed a curly-haired girl in a They Might Be Giants "Music Self-Played is Happiness Self-Made" shirt.
"I like your shirt," I said.
"Are you a fan?" she asked excitedly.
"How much of one?"
"Like, practically crazy," I said in a veritable tidal wave of bad judgement.
"Really!?! Wow! I'm way past that point. I, like, am stalking John Linnell at his house."
"Really? Where does he live?" I asked.
"I'm not telling you!" she screamed. I looked around nervously. Leah and Nina were way ahead.
"Okay, okay," I said.
"In Brooklyn."
"I know."
"That's all I can tell you. I'm stalking him, though. His wife, like, hates me."
Now why should Karen Brown, mother of a three-year old and wife of a man who attracts lunatics like nobody's business, hate a person who hangs around outside of her apartment? I just can't understand it.
"I've seen them 63 times in the last 2 years," she went on. "How many times have you seen them?"
"Uh, six, I think," I said.
"Which shows? We must have seen some of the same ones."
"Er, at Celebrate Brooklyn a few summers ago, twice in Buffalo, twice in Rochester, and once at the Bowery Ballroom. Oh, and the filming of Gigantic."
"I FUCKING HATE YOU!" she screamed. "I missed that one! My boyfriend went. It was like five hours long, wasn't it? He likes to rub it in."
"It was pretty cool," I admitted.
"I'm not even a TMBG fan so much as a John Linnell fan," she went on. "I have a website with the Mundanes mp3s and pictures of Linnell when he was, like, 20 and all that."
"I don't know," I said, over the warning bells dimly clanking in my head, "I love Linnell, too, but State Songs feels like it's lacking something to me..."
"IT'S NOT LACKING ANYTHING!!!" she screamed.
"Please stop shouting," I said nervously.
"Have you seen Gigantic?"
"No," I said.
"I have it." she said. "You have to come see it. And I have bootlegs of all their TV appearances, too. You're like my new best friend now. All I brought to college were TMBG t-shirts and every time somebody mentions it I get all excited and then it turns out they're like, "Uh, my brother had Flood and I listened to it once," but you're like a real fan!"
God help me.
"Well, I'm going to the campus center, so it was nice meeting you," I said, but
"NO! Here, let me give you my email and website and stuff..."
"Ah, okay, thanks..."
"And you give me yours in case you lose mine,"
"Um, sure..." I gave her my spare email, the one I use for spam. "Well, gotta go, nice meeting you, bye..."

"I just had a terrifying experience," I said to Nina and Leah.

Nina told me she's heard about this girl, who dropped out of school to follow the band. It's clear to me that she's insane. Why, then, does this experience lead me to question my own sanity? Why, when told that she stalks John Linnell, did I say "Where does he live?" instead of "How could you do such a creepy and illegal thing?" Not because I myself would stalk John Linnell; I would never stand outside his apartment and wait for him to come out, but if I knew where he lived and I was in Brooklyn I might pass by his block and smile to myself because I would know that the man whose job it is to make the music that makes me happy lives there with his family. I have my t-shirts and my poster and my autographed ticket stub and set list, and I've seen them live 6 times, but... I'm not crazy. Even though the idea of seeing Gigantic and all their tv appearances is tempting, it's not nearly tempting enough for me to go into this girl's room. She's like the crazy fan who killed John Lennon.
If I were They Might Be Giants, I'd be so scared all the time... of people like me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

This is, I think, a temporary solution, but "temporary" is such a slippery thing to get a handle on. Our web host provider was purchased, or its assets were, and the out going folks decided that they were going to pull the plug, and then there was a lawsuit, and negotiations, and all the while they said they were working on it, and then, I guess, they said the hell with it. So meanwhile, like a Japanese soldier stranded on a remote island, I carried on, occasionally posting comments to other people's blogs, and pretty much writing stuff of my own even though I had nowhere to post it. My thinking was that I wanted it all back-- nearly three years of content, and all the swell graphics-- all of the effort that had gone into Outside Counsel over the years. And I wanted it better-- in Moveable Type, with comments, and trackback-- oh, it was going to be a beautiful thing, I tell you.

Like most castles in the air, however, this one had a way of not being there when the rain started falling, mostly because I never got around to starting construction. I have established to my own satisfaction that I am doing this mostly for myself-- nobody read what I was writing in July and August, but I kept writing it. I also determined, though, that I like it when people read my stuff. People commented on my absence in their blogs, and my friends and family told me that they missed this. I missed it too, so I'll do it this way for a bit, until I get it together to put the whole works back up again. For the sake of the momentum it gives me, I am putting my September entries to date up here. There's nothing very interesting there, but why not? The big event in our household over the summer was EGA's departure for college. CLA started high school, and LCA is leaving single digits behind. I'll get around to talking about those things more I expect.

So I'm back. Thanks for asking after me.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I am disapointed that the Swedes have voted against adopting the Euro: for Europe to remain effective in the world, it will need to be able to speak with a unified voice, and this sort of fraying around the edges does not further that. Europe is most relivant if it is an economic force, and the Euro advances that.

I'm liking the Bills at 2-0. The only problem with the schedule yesterday was that either Miami or the Jets would pick up a win. I'm always excited about the Bills-Miami game, but this one should be big.

Friday, September 12, 2003

There were months to think about what to write when Warren Zevon died, but I couldn't find the hook. I think it is interesting that he started out as sort of Jackson Browne on Halloween, and became, maybe, more significant than Jackson Brown-- who'd have seen that coming? In the end, though, as Nick Lowe put it, "he never meant that much to me." It is hard to know where Zevon fits, exactly-- is he the Screaming Jay Hawkins of the '70's, or something more than that? (Not that being Screaming Jay wouldn't be a fine thing all by itself, to be sure.) Of course, Nick Lowe used to be Johnny Cash's son-in-law, and the news of Johnny Cash's death is what has me sad today. I have said before that I tend to underestimate the importance of country music's contribution to rock'n'roll, but I won't make that mistake this time-- Johnny Cash is as important to American music as people think Elvis is. He was the real deal, and the kind of person that makes me feel proud to have being an American in common with him. A number of the obituaries I have read and heard have focused on his rebel image, but what will stay with me, I think, will be the image of a man who kept "a close watch on this heart of mine." Even though that's a good thing to do, it isn't always easy, and I'm sure there plenty of times when it was hard for Cash. The fact that he understood how important it was, and articulated its importance so clearly makes it just a little bit easier for all of the rest of us.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I suppose I should be writing about where I was, and how I felt, and how I feel now, but I really don't have the heart for it. Where I was, actually, was in the chambers of the judge that I am presently trying a case before. My brother is eloquent on the rest of it, and if you care to read that sort of thing, go read his post for today. For myself, I just want to get through this trial, and move on to the next one. I also want to pick up the reissue of Thelonious Monk's Underground, a side I've always liked, and always found oddly dismissed by critics.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Teresa Nielsen Hayden nails it: "Naturally, George doesn't want people remembering that Osama bin Laden was the actual author of the 9/11 terrorism. His first-term agenda called for picking a fight with Saddam Hussein, not bin Laden. That way George could one-up his dad, chalk up an easy victory (Bush & Co. really did expect that), possibly use Iraq's resources to help defray the cost of the war, and get himself re-elected. Meanwhile, with everyone distracted by the war, he'd loot the national economy on behalf of his rich backers. Then some little Saudi radical had to make trouble by taking out the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon. It was too blatant. George had to do the war-with-Afghanistan thing instead. But as early as he possibly could, he transferred all the emphasis to drumming up the war with Iraq. That's why there was no provision made for the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan that would have made the war there worth something. The war with Afghanistan was never part of the plan in the first place. Bush & Co. simply weren't interested in pursuing it. It's also why Cheney's attention was already focused on pinning the attacks on Saddam Hussein by the afternoon of 9/11, long before the administration had answered questions like "what is going on," "are there any more people alive under that rubble," "what's needed here", or even "how are all those stranded people going to get home from the Maritimes." 9/11 was a crisis only insofar as it had interrupted their agenda, and Cheney was trying to push things back on track. And it's also why Bush & Co., especially Rumsfeld, repeatedly and personally (and by all reports very uncivilly) insisted on overruling the Pentagon planners who told them how many troops and what kind of backup were going to be needed for the invasion." Read all of it.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

The Department of Justice has stated that it will automatically appeal sentences that deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines, and has instructed the US Attorneys to report such sentences to Washington. Wouldn't you know it, the judge in the Western District of New York that is in hot water on this one is none other than the Honorable John T. Elfvin. Judge Elfvin is always in some sort of trouble: his personal life broke out in an embarassing scandal some years ago, and there was a pretty ugly lawsuit that came out of that. He was the judge who presided over the Attica litigation. That lawsuit took nearly thirty years to resolve; when the jury was charged and sent out to deliberate, Judge Elfvin went on vacation, telling the lawyers that if they needed him, he would be reachable by phone. One of the raps on him is that he is slow, and that's true-- decisions do not issue rapidly forth from his chambers. There are a lot of stories. And yet, for all of that, I think he is a pretty good judge. I have never been able to detect any hint of bias in him; he runs a tight courtroom, where professionalism is the norm. The proprieties are observed with him, and courtesy is expected. He is good on the law-- when he decides something, in my experience, he is thoughtful and usually right. I should mention, I think, that he and his wife are big supporters of the arts and cultural life in Buffalo; they were, very quietly, major sponsors of the Masterworks from the Phillips Collection exhibition that was just at the Albright-Knox-- something that I did not know until I heard it on the recorded tour, because it was not on any of the printed promotional materials. This sentencing thing is just like him: one guy is a rich, politically well connected cat who tried to dodge about a million bucks in taxes; the other is a chump kid who sold some amphetamine to an undercover agent. Neither of these people pose any real risk to anyone, neither is very likely to benefit from a lot of time in stir. Of course I believe that judges should follow the law, but I also believe that judicial discretion is important in any system that aspires to be a system of justice. For whatever it is worth, I also think that the sorts of sentences that get handed out in the US are grotesque, but that's not really the point. Judge Elfvin just lets it all roll off his back. He has life tenure, and I think he stopped caring about what people say about him a long time ago. There aren't a lot of judicial heroes out there, and he may be a flawed one, but I respect him.

Friday, September 05, 2003

One Hundred Records That Shook the World (When the No One Was Listening). Music lends itself to this better than anything, appealing to the Nick Hornby in us all. Let's see, Paris 1919 has been a favorite of mine for years. On the strength of Christgau's review I searched for years before finding Dancing in Your Head in Japan (only to return to the States and discover it re-released three months later). I keep meaning to pick up something by Tony Conrad. Exposure is one of the great lost records of all time. The Original Modem Lovers is great, but is it really obscure enough to be on this list? There is not a lot here that screams to me, "You need to buy this!" but I can see wanting to check some of it out. (Via Follow Me Here.)

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Someday, I promise, I'll get around to telling the story of the NFL book my law partner and I wrote. It is kind of a series of little set pieces and digresions, and I really haven't figured out how I want to write it. In the meanwhile, here are my picks for this season: NFC East: Giants look good, but Philly is out of the Vet, and that's gotta be worth two or three games. Let's say Eagles, and put the Giants down as a wildcard. NFC North: Ugh. Someone has to win this, so it may as well be Green Bay. NFC South: I like the Saints. Why not? I think Atlanta is underrated now, with Vick out, and they could surprise: there really is some talent there, but it's hard to picture the Falcons as a wildcard somehow. Tampa really is that good, but the hardest thing in sports is to climb the same mountain two years in a row. I figure the Bucs to beat the Falcons out for the wildcard.. NFC West: I am liking Seattle. AFC West: Oakland is old. Denver intrigues me, but I don't think this is the year. AFC Central: Sure, picking the Steelers is dull, but who else is there? AFC South: I like Indy. Peyton is due for a breakthrough.AFC East: We live in hope and die in despair. It won't be the Jets, because they are the Jets. I always worry about Miami, but this is not their year. I figure New England for the wildcard, and the Bills to surprise, and take the division. Why not?

Someday, I promise, I'll get around to telling the story of the NFL book my law partner and I wrote. It is kind of a series of little set pieces and digresions, and I really haven't figured out how I want to write it. In the meanwhile, here are my picks for this season: NFC East: Giants look good, but Philly is out of the Vet, and that's gotta be worth two or three games. Let's say Eagles, and put the Giants down as a wildcard. NFC North: Ugh. Someone has to win this, so it may as well be Green Bay. NFC South: I like the Saints. Why not? I think Atlanta is underrated now, with Vick out, and they could surprise: there really is some talent there, but it's hard to picture the Falcons as a wildcard somehow. Tampa really is that good, but the hardest thing in sports is to climb the same mountain two years in a row. I figure the Bucs to beat the Falcons out for the wildcard.. NFC West: I am liking Seattle. AFC West: Oakland is old. Denver intrigues me, but I don't think this is the year. AFC Central: Sure, picking the Steelers is dull, but who else is there? AFC South: I like Indy. Peyton is due for a breakthrough.AFC East: We live in hope and die in despair. It won't be the Jets, because they are the Jets. I always worry about Miami, but this is not their year. I figure New England for the wildcard, and the Bills to surprise, and take the division. Why not? 

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