Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, April 30, 2004

EGA writes:

"When I was in fifth grade my best friend told me about a school where all you did all day was make art and music floated through the halls. I pictured rooms full of breezy, gauzy curtains, where the students and teachers would sit on jewel-toned pillows on the floor. What she was describing was actually the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, where I spent three years as an art major. Although I loved it passionately at first, it fell rather short of my expectations: we sat at desks, we learned math and science (although not well, for the most part), and it smelled less like patchouli than tempra paint and tepid cafeteria food. I was all too glad to shake the dust from that place and go to the Buffalo Seminary- but that's another story.

Now my old fantasy school strikes me as being decidedly unpleasant- I hate the smell of patchouli and I hate sitting on cushions, and I really hated the classes, which were like something out of a Daniel Pinkwater novel. As I watch the seniors preparing to leave Smith and embark on their grownup lives, I think about my own post-grad plans. I indulge in fantasies of studying Logic in cool white marble and steel facilities with classmates who can bend spoons with sheer mindpower.

I can't imagine where these places might be."

Cross-posted from KRAC Blog:

After the Ridge Saturday (but before my nap) I took CLA and LCA to the park to do some soccer drills. We horsed around for a bit, then mosied down to where the rugby players were to watch for a bit. The Buffalo Rugby Club "B" team was playing (the "A" team had gone earlier in the day.) CLA watched, entranced. I don't think she'd ever seen it played before. "Oh. My. Gosh," she said. "I think I have a new favorite sport." It was a pretty impressive display, I must admit, and although I'm sure she'll play rugby sooner or later, I don't think she's done with soccer quite yet.

I thought about this again today when I read this account of the unelected leader of the Free World's version of his college athletic career:

"[A]ccording to presidential adviser Karen Hughes, the president likes to, well, embellish a bit when describing his college athletic career. [F]rom a book review of Hughes' Ten Minutes from Normal:

A strange anecdote about Vladimir Putin's interest in Bush's college days seems to be included so Hughes can mention Bush's underappreciated athleticism: "'President Putin knew you had played rugby, but he didn't have the context. I mean you just played for one semester in college, right?' I said, dismissing it.

"'I played for a year,' the president corrected me, 'and it was the varsity.'"

"Doolittle [the source for the review] offers this correction:

"... The underappreciated athlete couldn't have played varsity rugby because there wasn't any varsity. Because rugby was a club sport."

I'm not sure what the appropriate rugby response to this sort of thing would be, although I'm sure it is something both violent and humiliating. I'll say this, though, whatever it is: I hope CLA does play rugby someday, and that she gets to participate in giving out whatever Bush has coming. (Via Electrolite.)

Thursday, April 29, 2004

EGA reports that she saw Laura Cantrell the other night, and that she covered "Hong Kong Blues," a song that served as a lullaby in our household for many years. You don't hear "Hong Kong Blues" too often-- it isn't even all that easy to find a recording of it (although through the magic of the World Wide Interweb I now know that George Harrison covered it). Together with "For You", and Reelin' in the Years" and a few others it is an anthem for me, and I really want to hear Ms. Cantrell's version. An even better Hoagy Carmichael song for her, in my opinion, would be the even more rare "How Little We Know." Legend has it that Lauren Bacall's vocal in "To Have and Have Not" was dubbed by the pre-adolescent Andy Williams, which I have always thought sounded improbable. (The preadolescent nobody ever sounded like Lauren Bacall.) Whatever the truth may be, that version is next to impossible to find-- if I wanted to find it, I'd have to look on the Hoagy side I found in Japan, and that is in Northampton for some reason. The only other version I am aware of is the late, great Susannah McCorkle's. Perhaps Ms. Cantrell could even find a way to include the "lost" lyric: "I run for the telephone, whenever it rings..."

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

For over twenty years I have been impressed (although that is not quite the word I'm looking for) by the graffiti in the men's rooms at New York County Supreme Court, 60 Center Street. It isn't just the hateful quality of it, or its puerile filth-- although, to be sure, both of these aspects are notable-- it is the consistency of it; the fact that it seems like the work of the same person or persons. It is almost like it has been produced by a sort of school, in the manner of the schools of the Dutch Old Masters.

The pictorial arts are become rare in lavatory art, but they are not neglected at 60 Center. If it is not the same artist, it is and has been mostly in the same style. The walls of the stalls are cleaned infrequently, but they are cleaned sometimes, and when they are, the homoerotic Bic pen frescos promptly re-appear, with accompanying crass commentary. I have never known the stalls there to be devoid of ornament, although I have come upon them when the new work is more or less freshly in progress.

Although the artwork is surprisingly deft, the writing is pretty witless: commentary on the sexual preferences of well-known public figures and obscure private persons, most of the latter identified by first name only, or initials; outhouse limericks which were antique when clay tablets were bathroom reading material; the occasional racial or ethnic slur. It all seems very out of character for a courthouse like New York Supreme, which is noted for its liberal, cosmopolitan sophistication. It has been the same stuff for years, though, and that has to mean something.

Over the years I have used the wash rooms on every floor, in just about every nook and cranny of a building that has more nooks and crannies than an English Muffin. Throughout the graffiti is the same, and I have often wondered who the prolific artist (or artists) could be. I suppose it might be a lawyer, but it would have to be a lawyer of uncommon industry. We can rule out, I think, the judges. They have their own bathrooms. (I haven't seen them-- they might be full of the same stuff, but I doubt it.) Jurors are too transient to be likely candidates, which seems to leave the clerks and court offices, I suppose. I'd have to venture that it is not the cleaning staff. It's jarring stuff, and it makes the 60 Center experience more than a little wierd.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

For years Ron Rosenbaum has been saying that the alternative (actually, the original) version of "Blood on the Tracks" is due to be released at any moment, presumably as part of the ongoing "Bootleg Project". The story goes that Dylan had the album recorded, using New York studio pros, but re-did it over the Christmas holiday in Minneapolis with a group of musicians assembled by his brother. The second version is the one that was released, and it is pretty much universally acknowledged as a masterpiece. A new addition to the annals of Dylanology, "A Simple Twist of Fate" tells the story, and I don't care what Salon says, I'm really looking forward to reading it. I love that sort of thing: the Ashley Kahn books about the making of "Kind of Blue" and "A Love Supreme" are terrific, and "Blood on the Tracks certainly stands with those works on my list.

The whole "Blood on the Tracks" story is intriguing. Finding out that Dylan has a brother is like finding out that Jesus had a brother-- you never heard of him before, and all of a sudden there he is, putting together a band that works brilliantly. The criticism of the book seems to be that it fails to delve into the emotional history of the songs, but I'm not so sure that this is fair: the songs speak for themselves. Does anything need to be said about their content?

In typical Dylanology style, the bootlegs where the originals can be found are cited, while the fact that the core half-dozen songs are on "Biograph" and "Bootleg Vol. I-III" is not mentioned. When the entire set is ultimately released, I'll be on line when the store doors open, but for now I have a pretty good idea of what the New York version sounds like, and I'd have to agree that the version we have now is always going to be the definitive version.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Yesterday's big band event has had me thinking about jazz big bands, and the transition jazz underwent from the so-called "Big Band Era" to the post war bebop and post-bop stages. There is a fair amount I question about the conventional wisdom concerning this time, starting with the idea that what occurred during this time was an "evolution". To the extent that this implies that there was some sort of advance in sophistication, or overall quality from the sort of music that the Basie Band, or Ellington, or any number of others were producing, I think that this is probably a mistaken notion, fostered at the time by partisans of the newer sound.

Similarly, it is pretty widely accepted that the invention of bebop came about because the African American musicians felt that the white bands had stolen their sound. Under this version the cats who were jamming after hours at Mintons and whatnot resolved to invent a new sound that would be too complicated for the white guys to understand or play. (Arthur Taylor's interviews are full of this account, for example). There may be more than merely a kernel of truth to it, but I suspect the reality is more complex.

One of the things that I think was going on was that the economics of keeping a big band together was probably getting tougher. Smaller combos, playing in venues that were not dance oriented undoubtedly lead to greater freedom to improvise, and the development of new forms of improvisation. There is a school of thought that maintains that around this time jazz stopped being dance music, and became "art music". Again, I am not so sure that tells the whole story: the difficulty a lot of African American musicians had in getting or holding onto cabaret cards meant that they couldn't work in places where dancing was permitted-- the transition may have been born of necessity, but, like the idea that bebop was invented to be more complicated so that white musicians couldn't steal it, the idea that it was self-consciously conceived as a higher art form unnecessarily denigrates the music that was being played by many of the same musicians at other gigs and on other recordings.

No doubt Monk wanted to hear some of his music in a big band setting. Fact is, it sounds great when played by a large ensemble. During all of the time that Miles was working with his first and second quintets he was also working with Gil Evans on big band stuff. You'd have to say that larger groups were where Mingus was most interesting. In addition to Evans, Tad Dameron and plenty of others were working on music that was played "inside the changes" by big bands.

I'd like to hear more contemporary big bands, like the two we saw yesterday, doing more with this tradition, and I wonder why they do not. I suppose it could have something to do with the perceived "difficulty" of some of this music, but it shouldn't: anything from "Miles Ahead", or "Sketches of Spain" would have complemented the ninety-ninth billionth playing of "String of Pearls". Please don't get me wrong, I like "String of Pearls" fine, but it is very nearly the jazz version of "Stairway to Heaven".

A few years back I saw T.S. Monk lead a big band featuring his father's music. It was, frankly, one of the best evenings of big band jazz I have ever witnessed. You can't talk to a jazz musician who doesn't love that music. There really ought to be more of an effort to expand the repertoire so that when there is an occasion to have three trombones, and some trumpets, and a saxophone section, and a rhythm section and whatever all else you want we can hear more than just the usual stuff. It's not that the other stuff is deficent-- it's just tired. Some new set lists could fix that.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

To Jazz in a Sacred Space this afternoon, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo put on by the Colored Musicians Club at Blessed Trinity Church. The Ladies First Big Band and the George Scott Big Band were featured, and I was pleasantly surprised by the event. I'd never been to the church before, or really even in the neighborhood-- the Central Park District, rather off the beaten path. I don't go in much for churches, or religious art, for that matter, but this is really one of the more spectacular churches I've seen in Buffalo-- or anywhere, really. The architecture emulates Lombard Romanesque with Byzantine details, with handmade bricks, and extensive terra cotta ornamentation, quite unlike anything else I've ever seen.

They are doing it again June 13-- if you are in the area, it is worth checking it out. Good cause, good music, interesting venue-- what's not to like?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Good post about B.D. losing his leg in "Doonesbury", by the author of a web comic, "The Queen of Wands"( strip that I'll be checking out more regularly). I agree that this is an interesting choice for Trudeau (Via Flutterby. This creates a shift in the little world of the strip that demonstrates that he is not afraid of continuing to be creative. One of the ways that daily strips run out of steam is that they don't take this sort of chance more often. It is boredom more than exhaustion that creates comics writer burnout.

I love comics for a lot of reasons, and the iconography of it all is a big part. I believe that this is the first time we have seen B.D. without his helmet.

Erica has some interesting things to say about jury duty, and about the process of being a responsible juror over at Designs on You:

"I myself, got to thinking about Socrates (b/c well, I'm apparently a dork.) Socrates gets brought up on charges that will lead to him having to drink hemlock. His students are telling him "We can fight this, you can't do this." His response was that you have to abide by the laws of a society, otherwise it's chaos and anarchy and no structure. You can only go by what the law says and what is presented to you as evidence, though so many "Well what if..." and "But maybe she didn't have assistance in maintaining her condition" thoughts may come into play. And that's a really hard thing b/c on the whole, you want to think people are inherently good (or I do anyway.) But in the end, this woman ran around and unplugged phones. She wouldn't let the victim leave. She verbally threatened her when she tried. She didn't take responsibility for herself, to take her meds if that was the case, and that led to her acting in ways that go against legal precedent. And in our society, if you do actions with knowledge that they will cause bodily harm (assault with a deadly weapon) or imply you will cause bodily harm (threats followed up with bodily harm), you have to pay a price. You can't just run around doing whatever you want b/c you feel like it. So we had to find her guilty. But it was really hard, I tell you what. I actually got emotional when we were reading out the verdicts, had we done the right thing?

"But each one of us went out praying that girl gets some real help, I know that much."

Where can I get some jurors who think about Socrates?

Friday, April 23, 2004

I should say a word about last week's trip to Northampton, just to preserve it for the record. EGA is a participant in a program called STRIDE, which is surely an acronym for something. She receives a stipend for working with a faculty member on an academic project. It is, like everything at her school, very fancy, and very well done. At the end of the year the STRIDE students and the faculty members put on presentations that describe the nature of the work that they are doing. The professor that EGA is working with is studying language development in children, specifically when certain linguistic distinctions, like plural "s", or the use of the reflexive, appear. It is interesting stuff, and although EGA didn't get to be too hands on with it until towards the end of the year, it really is the sort of thing that is right up her alley.

It was fun to see her, and she was excited and glad to see us. We got a chance to meet some of the faculty that she has had (her Logic professor is straight out of Central Casting: tweed jacket, white tennis shoes, bushy mustache, distracted air), and we met a couple of her friends. Got to hear some of her radio show, got to hang around NoHo. I've said before that it seems like a kind of heaven to me-- it is all book stores and record stores and restaurants that look nice, and music venues and intellectual culture. It is also quite a bit like Wonder Woman's home town, Paradise Island: I like walking around a place that is full of attractive young women, but feels a little peculiar being a Y chromosome person there. Our vehicle fit right in, though: the Dean sticker made it look like every other car in the lot, except for the ones with Kucinich stickers. I saw one car with a Clark sticker-- by Smith standards, obviously a right wing nut.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Another thing I like about baseball is the way that its streaks and records connect us to the history of the game, and our own history. Sure Barry Bonds is chasing Ruth and Aaron, but that's long term stuff. For now, if he his a home run in his next game he will match the major league record for consecutive games with a homer. The record is shared by Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly(1987) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (1993). It is pleasant to think about that, for just a moment. Thirty one years separate Long and Donnie Baseball, six between Mattingly and Junior, and eleven have passed since. Tells us something about the difficulty of hitting a home run in eight consecutive games, doesn't it? And it tells us a little about the intersection of talent and luck, too. Aaron never had a 50 home run season--, and he never hit a home run in eight consecutive games. Neither did Ruth. Willie Mays, who, I guess, is my vote for greatest all-time, holds the record for hitting a home run in every inning through 16-- one of my favorite bits of baseball trivia. The Say Hey Kid didn't hit a home run in eight consecutive games.

Over on the Mets side of the equation, Al Leiter's scoreless streak ended last night at 29 1/3, the longest by a Met since Dwight Gooden went for 31 in 1985. The Mets record, by the way, is 31 2/3, set by Jerry Koosman in '73. It's nice to be able to open the paper and think about being at Shea when Dr. K was at his peak. Thinking about Jerry Koosman and the '73 Mets is a much sunnier way to think about that time than thinking about Nixon and Kissinger, and everything else that was going on that summer. I never heard of Long before. His streak was over before I was born, but I was in the stands during Gooden's run, and I remember following Mattingly's streak in the Daily News, and although I can't say I remember Koosman's streak, I remember Koosman, who was great. I rode the A train into court, reading the sports pages, and feeling pretty good about life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The isolation experienced by US Presidents, and its effect on their judgment is something that is often remarked upon; we are seeing an example of it today. Like LSD, the effect of the office seems to amplify some underlying character trait in the individual occupying the office: if you harbor a sense of persecution, when President this will blossom and you will be Nixon. If you are ruled by your appetites, then the Penthouse Forum fantasies that fill your subconscious become real, and you become Clinton. The unelected leader of the free world has always been a spoiled child, incapable of believing that he is not everyone's favorite. It is weird to imagine what it must have been like, growing up the son of Barbara and George Bush, christened with the name of a man prominent enough to be the object of sneering denunciations by the Yale Chaplin. It seems clear that being popular was always what motivated George, as if that was the quality that defined his father's success. In any event, it seems clear that young George determined that popularity would help him succeed where his father had not, and now he believes that he really is bigger than Elvis. This manifests itself in a number of ways: for one, he is oblivious to the fact that he is not universally beloved; or, at least, he thinks that those who disagree with him are some sort of deluded minority. This is part of where all the "uniter not a divider" talk comes from-- to use a cowboy term, he carves out the part of the herd that isn't running with him.

It must be interesting living in his little bubble. It means that today he is coming to Buffalo, a place where he is far from popular, to give a speech about the Patriot Act. We are a prop here, just like New York will be a prop this summer, and the fact that there aren't many people in either place that like him, or approve of his policies is something that is either irrelevant to him or of which he is blissfully unaware.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Traveling today, I had time for a few New York sports sections and got thinking: one of the great things about baseball is its complexity; one of the other things that I love about it is the way that the patterns of the game repeat themselves. Man on first and third, one out, ball popped up over second, you know where to look, and what to look for, and how to judge the aesthetics of what is happening in front of you. Similarly, we know that ever year the Yankees will sign a new superstar, and that every year that star will struggle at the plate through April. It must be nice to be a New York sports writer-- you can do the story you are going to file on this one in February, during that horrible slack time between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Hoops tournaments.

The Hon. Salvatore Martoche is known to a lot of people around here as a political cat-- he was a Reagan appointee in the DOJ back in the day, and when he came back to town he raised a ton of dough to run for Supreme Court (New York's highest trial court)-- a position he won in a walk. Characterizing him as "political", however, sells him a little short. All judges are political, even the ones who appear to have been bodily assumed onto the federal bench. I suppose the reason he isn't on the federal bench is that he preferred to live in Western New York, and there are only so many federal judgeships available here. I don't think he'd have been content as a federal magistrate-- he has always been ambitious, in a way that certainly seems modest-- at least on the surface. Justice Martoche is a much better judge than I think he gets credit or from some people, and now he will be doing his judging from the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. I wouldn't rule out a federal judgeship for him if one were to open up around here, but the more interesting question is what this portends for judicial politics around here-- and state wide. Regular readers of this site know that we are big fans of the Hon. Eugene Pigott, the present Presiding Justice of the Fourth Department. Judge Pigott has twice been passed over for the Court of Appeals (New York's highest court-- what everyone else calls their Supreme Court). What does the appointment of a Republican stalwart like Judge Martoche mean? Does it give the Gov. a guy to move up into the PJ slot when Judge Pigott moves up when the next C of A opening comes up? Does it mean that Judge Martoche is now a candidate for the Court of Appeals? I do not know, and I have no way of knowing. For the time being I am content with the fact that the appellate court where I appear with the greatest frequency is full of judges that I know, and know to be capable and knowledgeable. There are few things more enjoyable in our glamour profession than appearing before a good judge-- but appearing before a panel full of them is one. Our track record with Judge Martoche as a Supreme court Judge has been mixed, but that is as much a reflection of the cases we have had before him as it is of his abilities. Right now I'm thinking that the Fourth Department has got a pretty impressive bench at the moment.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I have always been fond of the Brooklyn Museum-- all New Yorkers have a place that is a little off the beaten path that they have a special affection for, and this is one of mine. Growing up, we had an aunt and uncle who lived across the street-- the museum was an occasional treat back then. When we lived in Brooklyn, A. frequently worked weekends while she was at the DA's office, and it was a perfect place to go on a Saturday with young EGA. The Brooklyn Museum was the scene of the last New York outing we took with my brother before he shipped of to Botany Bay. Renovations were in full swing at that time, and are now complete. It looks spectacular. I can't wait to go see it again.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

At the risk of provoking reminiscence, let me ask: was there ever a cooler toy than the Strange Change Time Machine? Five bucks will get you one on e-bay, if you hurry. The Strange Change Machine was much cooler than Creepy Crawlers (which were also cool, but involved more overhead). It came with a prehistoric landscape (you could fill the pond with water, which would get all scuzzy after a while), and it got hotter'n a two dollar pistol. If I recall rightly you could mash plastic soldiers into the monsters that came with it, for an interesting effect-- the soldiers weren't ever really the same after, though. (Via BoingBoing.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The liner notes to Live '64 have thoughtfully been posted at, eliminating any need on my part to go out and buy it.

Baseball's all-time all-hair team. You can't tell me Oscar Gamble isn't the MVP.

We don't usually go in much for reservations; unless we really have something specific in mind and are going with other people our preferred method is to simply show up. The art of slipping the maitre d' a twenty sounds like something that might be useful in a pinch, although it also seems kinda sleazy. (Via The Morning News.) I guess the trick is discretion.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Nice profile of Justice Ira Gammerman.

And speaking of matters literary, today is Samuel Beckett's birthday. Makes me want to have a Guinness and mumble about blankness and blackness.

Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.

"A Wrinkle In Time" is one of those books that acts as a sort of universal reference in the Outside Counsel household. Frankly, the idea of a movie, or, even worse, a made for tv movie of this work is very disturbing to me. It is kind of a talk-y book, for one thing, and the kind of book that works best in the mind's eye to the extent that there is description or action. I can imagine it being cheesed up with a lot of hokey fx, but I can't imagine it being done right. This one falls into the category of "why couldn't they have left well enough alone?" (Via Bookslut.)

Monday, April 12, 2004

I haven't seen the ad on tv yet, but as far as I'm concerned Bob Dylan in a Victoria's Secret commercial is much cooler than it is getting credit for. Slate's "Ad Report Card" pans it, for example, but I think the critics are missing the point. Bob Dylan isn't really a "decrepit, sixtysomething folksinger", (although he hasn't gotten any better looking over the years). It is not really accurate to call him a "countercultural artist," either. In fact, I would say that an excellent case can be made that Bob Dylan is a major American cultural contributor. He is not some sort of aged fringe hippie-- that would be, oh, I don't know, David Crosby, and that would be strange in a woman's lingerie ad. Bob Dylan? Hey, Bob Dylan has always been a ladies man, proof for years that intelligent is sexy, and that sensitive is not synonymous with wimpy. The ad works for me-- it validates the product in a way that Led Zep for Cadillac can't begin to. Credit also for using a fairly recent Dylan song. "All I Really Want To Do", or "When I Paint My Masterpiece", or something like that would have been an appeal to aging boomers' nostalgia, and would not be sexy. This is, and the fact that it's also a funny idea is just more proof that the man hasn't lost his sense of humor. As far as I'm concerned, that may be the sexist part about it.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Once I was out of range of WFMU on my way to Riverhead Thursday, I listened to the begining of Condoleezza Rice's testimony. Then I was in court, but once I was out of range that evening I listened to the reports about it, and to the bits that were excerpted. One thing I thought I noticed was the strained quality of her voice. A lot of times when people are lying, or are otherwise uncomfortable with what they are saying their voices will go up a notch. Rice sounded like Neil Young at times, she was so stressed out.

Content wise, I thought the presentation was more of the same. It wasn't our fault, what would you have had us do, it was really the failed Clinton policy that set us up to fail. I am not inclined to buy these arguments, and I don't think she made them persuasively. Because none of us have any long term memory left, the reality of what Dick Clarke has been saying may be washing over us, but don't you remember thinking that we'd be at war with Iraq pretty much as soon as the Supreme Court had finished with its work on the election? This war has always been a foregone conclusion, and if we know oone thing about this Admistration, we know that cognitive dissonance is not a problem for them. When the facts conflict with what they believe, they disregard the facts, every time. It sounds like I'm saying this to be comical, but I'm not-- these ppeople live in a dream world-- and if you think for a moment that they give a tinker's dam about the world that we are living in, then you are sadly mistaken.

Over at Slate's Fraywatch someone named BeverlyMann makes some additional points: "[W]hat is clear to me now—after watching Rice's testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports—is that Rice isn't a national security adviser at all. That is, her job—unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger—was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.

"Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders—or, as she repeatedly put it, to be "tasked"—to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these "principles' meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.

"Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking." Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.

"Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration's own making.

"That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one—even to me. It's a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush's failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking" especially in light of George Tenet's warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.

"The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"—the presidential daily briefing—wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.

"Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious". But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.

"But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney—or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.

"[T]he political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He's jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn't obsessively secretive for nothing.

"Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn't succeed in her mission."

In other words, she was hung out to dry, just as Colin Powell was. Nice bunch of playmates.

On the way down, however, there was no good radio, so I played CDs. I know I said that I was not interested in the new "Live 1964" set, and I'm still not-- not really. But I've got a Dylan thing coming on, and you know how that goes.

Bombing around Long Island, marveling at the excellence of the radio. WFMU, the Fordham University station is what rock'n'roll radio should be. The jock comes on and says, "How great is this? New music from Patti Smith," then follows it with "Keith Don't Go", then Bob Dylan singing "Yellow is the Color of My True Love's Hair". Whiskeytown. The Thrills. Candy Butchers. I can pick it up just after the toll plaza at the base of the Catskills, and hang on to the signal until almost Riverhead.

Monday, April 05, 2004

ESPN's predictions for the season.

"April 23 -- Chipper Jones turns 32 years old and declares he is sticking with "Chipper" as his name even though he should have grown out of it about 25 years ago.

"May 14 -- Mike Piazza starts his first game ever as a pitcher and gives up 29 runs in a blowout loss to the Astros. However, he hits opposing starter Roger Clemens four times in the head with pitches, and beans him repeatedly with pickoff attempts to first base.

"May 15 -- The home plate umpire calling the Padres-Cubs game receives a complaint that David Wells' gold chain and huge, disgusting body is a distraction in the batters box.

"June 9 -- The Orioles honor first baseman Rafael Palmeiro with a Viagra Giveaway Night promotion. The stadium is packed during the early innings, but most fans have cleared out to go home or check into nearby hotels about an hour into the game.

"July 13 -- American League All-Star manager Joe Torre leaves starting pitcher Curt Schilling of the Red Sox in for the entire game. The National League wins 3-2 in 11 innings.

"August 18 -- Leading the majors with a .364 average, Cleveland's Coco Crisp is placed on the front of the Wheaties box.

"Sept. 23 -- The White Sox pull a prank on visiting Royals' first-base coach Tom Gamboa, hiring two shirtless men two jump onto the field and chase him around while Gamboa receives absolutely no assistance from Comiskey security personnel."

The problem with the hours I've been putting in lately is that until you are done in, you don't necessarilly know that you're tired. At least, I think that's what this is. Maybe it is just the week I'm facing that has me tired in anticipation. It looks like it will be cold and wet where I'm going, but not as cold-- I am running outside anyway, and I am figuring it'll warm up here by the the time I get back.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I thought that Justice Scalia was marginalizing himself; now it looks like others are noticing this as well. Of course, measuring the influence of Supreme Court Justices is something that almost needs to be done on a geological scale, but if this is true, it means that the Supreme Court may be one of the few institutions in American public life that is trending away from the paralyzing polarization that afflicts our civic discourse everywhere else. I tend to think that the Court is somewhat less hamstrung by virtue of the fact that courts must dispose of cases, and are, therefore, inclined to compromise. I also think that it wouldn't take much to tip this Court into a place that would leave Justice Scalia quite satisfied-- even if his "future prospects are to be an associate justice as long as he wants to be an associate justice."

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The other day I was thinking about the texture my days used to have when I was working in Manhattan. Back then people used to ask me all the time if the hours I was putting in were oppressive (actually what they'd say was more along the lines of, "Don't you hate working those kind of hours?)but the truth is that it was sort of nice. New York City litigators back then used to get a little bit of a break-- the days usually started in court, which meant that there was seldom any place you had to be before 9:30, and you could, if necessary, show up by 10 and still be in good shape. There were exceptions, of course--trial days meant 9, and sometimes you had to be in the office early, but, like a lot of young people I favored making my day longer at the back end, and the rhythm of the practice lent itself to that.

Typically I'd be in court, or conducting a deposition until around one o'clock. Afternoon sessions commenced around two, but unless I was on trial I'd be on my way back to the office by then. Usually I'd grab something to eat on my way back, then eat my sandwich or whatever as I did my time entries for the morning. I'd go through my mail, dictating responses as I went along, and then it was five or five thirty, and the staff started going home. The day took on a different texture at that point: the telephone stopped ringing, and the only people left in the office were lawyers. At that point, I'd turn my attention to the projects that needed doing: writing appeals, drafting motions, report letters to clients, things like that. We'd have gone over what we would be doing the following day before five, as a rule, and I would have a look at whatever that consisted of during this time as well. If you enjoy practicing law, then this is all interesting stuff. Usually I'd go to about 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, then I'd knock off and go home. The train was not crowded, I'd read The New Yorker or something, and when I got home I'd have a beer, eat something, and be in bed by about midnight.

There were things not to like about it, sure: I ate a lot of junk-- or, at least, I ate a lot of stuff that wasn't very slimming. I did not exercise at all. It was not a very social time in my life, but I really liked it. Lately I have been trying to get back into the longer days-- I am more efficient when I allow my day to be spent along the rhythm that a litigation practice demands, instead of fighting it. One change that life in this city allows is that I can go to the gym in the time that I used to spend eating and getting back to the office. This represents a quality of life improvement, although as I sit here writing this now, I am missing the eggplant pizza I used to get from the hole in the wall shop by Grand Central.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Only 20% of qualified jurors in New York's state courts end up serving. There are probably a number of reasons that account for this, including the fact that most cases end up settling, (and the fact that "qualified" is a term that is close to meaning "breathing" in some instances), but it is certainly true that one of the biggest challenges in selecting a jury is finding panel members who want to serve, and are impartial. It is a big commitment, and right now it seems like talk radio and the like has placed such a high value on having an opinion, regardless of how informed it is, that it is difficult to find people who are unbiased. I like and believe in the jury system, but I wonder sometimes if it isn't breaking down.

I am rounding into one of those weeks-- I'm writing here in an attempt to try and get my mind around it. Tuesday I am arguing a very technical make or break appeal, in a high-stakes case; Wednesday I am in a mediation in a case where we have a summary judgment motion that has been sub judice for just about as long as a major change in the law was reported. Thursday into Friday I am trying a case-- that may or may not slop into Monday. Each event is taking place in a different city, of course.

I used to do that sort of travel kind of a lot, but I haven't in a couple of years. It wouldn't be so bad if the following week didn't also look like more of the same.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Peter Ustinov reading the fables of humorist James Thurber. I don't have the time at the moment, but I think I'll come back to this.

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