Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm sure it is not an original thought but as I watched the Yanks-Red Sox game last night it occurred to me that a core component of the Yankee's long term strategy is to use the scouting departments of the rest of baseball to spot talent. In a funny way the rest of baseball even develops talent for them. It makes a kind of sense: that overhead cost is compensated for by being able to put a popular, winning team on the field year after year (after year, after year as Steve Goodman would say in an opposite context).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Via Flutterby, an article about bike sharing programs and helmet laws. When we were in Boston a couple of weeks ago we noticed the bike sharing racks-- apparently it is a fairly new program there. I didn't think about the fact that naturally one would be riding without a helmet, even when we saw people riding the share-bikes, but I would have, I think, as soon as I got on one. Wearing a helmet has become as second nature to me as buckling my seatbelt when I get in a car. I'm a bit of a nut on the subject, and have harangued more than one friend into wearing a helmet. Head injuries are not a matter to be taken lightly, and even in the absence of helmet laws there are, I think, liability issues presented for the promoters of bike sharing programs that ought to compel them to find a way to make helmets available to users. I don't think the technical problems are so difficult, and I think that turning this into some sort of libertarian issue is messed up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I have no particular fondness for Crosby, Stills and Nash. The Sometimes Young stuff is what retains its interest these days. Stills looked like a contender for a while, but that Manassas stuff was the end of it. Crosby, it turns out, was just another hippie. My understanding is that Graham Nash was actually a decent guy (and probably still is) but his resume is the lightest of the lot. Even with these misgivings, however, I can still find myself caught up by some of their work. Part of it is that they were so ubiquitous-- Nash and Crosby (and frequently Rita Coolidge, g-d save the mark) seemed to sing back-up on everybody's albums, for example. Or consider who played on their 'solo' sides. Stills was probably the most accomplished musician from a technical standpoint, and on his first solo record he got Eric Clapton (back when we thought he was God) and Jimi Hendrix to sit in on a track each. This morning on the way in to work 'Military Madness', from Nash's "Songs For Beginners" came on. It is a slight piece of work, with hippie politics that cloy, but it is also a pretty good piece of songwriting. Towards the end there is a bit of funky guitar work, and I found myself wondering who it was. It might have been Stills-- there was a lot of wah-wha, an effect he was fond of, but the point of those solo records was to play with other guys, so I figured it wasn't. It could have been Jerry Garcia-- parts of it sounded like the kind of thing Jerry used to do. I ran through a couple of other players from the period as the song faded out, then looked it up just now. It was Dave Mason. Rita Coolidge was (naturally) singing back-up. (Wikipedia says "her leaving Stills for Nash has been cited as a contributing factor behind the initial 1970 breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young." I did not know that.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When you consider the career of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller you realize that any one of their hits would have been enough to have placed them among the all-time greats. How would you like to have Hound Dog on your resume? Or On Broadway? Or Kansas City? Or Chapel of Love? Or Leader of the Pack? Damn. They wrote Stuck in the Middle with You-- think of that. A song that Quentin Tarantino repurposed to great cultural import, a song that gave Gerry Rafferty enough scratch for him to underwrite Richard Thompson when Thompson needed it....
Thank you, Jerry. Rest in Peace.

(Oh, and sorry Nick Ashford. You were great too, but when Jerry Lieber dies he gets the lede.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Paul Campos, who teaches law at the University of Colorado in Boulder and blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money has started a separate blog called Inside the Law School Scam. It is a subject that he has written about in the past, as have I, and I think the profession should be discussing it more than it has to this point.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Worst 50 States in America. I'd say they got it just about right so far.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Was A-Rod's contract the most ill-advised in baseball history? The incredible part to me is that the Yankees essentially doubled down on the contract he signed with Texas, which was already crazy. It is hard to dispute that he's put up the numbers, but he's managed to do it while remaining unpopular. Remember when he was a free agent? His negotiations with the Mets broke down when his agent wanted special merchandizing rights. As I recall he wanted a tent with just his stuff. I can picture the centaur-themed merch, and the Madonna tie-ins. More importantly, he is under contract until 2017. He's 36 right now, and he is starting to sustain the sorts of injuries that older players get-- hip, calf, right now a gimpy knee. He is good enough to keep going until he's 42, but he'll be a DH for most of that time, and his power numbers are fading fast. Would the Yankees trade him at some point? Would there be a market? I'm inclined to think that the answer to the first question depends on the answer to the second, and I think the answer to the second is no. The Commissioner is looking into this poker thing, and that's not good-- gambling of any sort gets baseball all crazy, so the downside isn't just that he's getting older and losing power. There is a real possibility that a team that might be interested in an aging DH might shy away from a guy who could end his career in scandal. I don't think that there would be any team that he's already played for that would want him back. I can't see the Red Sox wanting him-- they'd be more inclined to take a pass just out of spite, to see the Yankees stuck with him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

GJA posted an impressive 1:33:10 in the Sun Herald City to Surf, a 14k. I was blown away when I saw that this was a 6:39 pace until I realized that the Aussies express distance in Canadian. His American pace, while still quite respectable, was not as world-beating. This race sounds nuts-- 85,000 starters.

I guess this is one for the e-discovery file: Facebook says it located the original contract between Mark Zuckerberg and Paul Ceglia on Ceglia's harddrive, and that it does not mention Facebook. Apparently the contract that Ceglia showed to the parade of lawyers who have represented him over the comparatively brief run of this lawsuit is a forgery. I'd like to see the brief filed arguing that the document was privileged. I'd also be curious about the timing of counsel's departure in this matter. Did people bail on this lawsuit as it became clear to them that the ground was shifting, or did they split because they weren't getting paid?

Monday, August 15, 2011

DC characters don't seem to do as well at the movies as Marvel characters do-- Batman excepted, and maybe Superman too, I guess. I don't think this has to do with the lack of familiarity the general public has with the DC line-- people know Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern isn't all that obscure, is he? Maybe what they should try is to go with a somewhat more obscure comic. The Doom Patrol maybe, or the Legion of Super-Heros. What could go wrong with that? Apparently there is a Flash movie in the works, and I'll tell you right now what'll go wrong with that: the filmmaker will overlook the delightful weird stuff that made the Flash great, and will instead give us a movie about an angst-y fast guy. Nobody wants to see that. The Flash has a rogue's gallery that is perhaps only second to Batman's but there's no way we will get Grodd,  the super-intelligent gorilla, (or the Gorilla City), or Mirror Master, or the Pied Piper, or Captain Cold, or Captain Boomerang. (Why are they always Captains? There is nothing particularly nautical about these guys.)

Cultural critics are fond of observing that Marvel changed the genre by publishing comics that addressed real-world concerns, and in the post-Marvel world the Dark Knight and Watchmen, among others, refined that sensibility further, but let's face it, comic books movies work best when they remember that they are supposed to be fun. The Flash could be like that, in ways that Green Lantern is never going to be.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To As You Like It at Shakespeare in Delaware Park the other night, just in time because it closes Sunday. This has been the strongest season for this institution that I can recall. I didn't mention it at the time, but Saul Elkin's Merchant of Venice was excellent. There are times when I feel as though SiDP is a vehicle for Elkin's ego ("Hmm. Perhaps I shall play Lear this season") but his Shylock took some real risks and was a nuanced piece of acting. I really like As You Like It, but it is tough to do-- there are pacing challenges, and keeping the energy level up can be hard to do. This managed it nicely, and there were excellent performances by Anne Roalidi as Celia, Norman Sham as Touchstone and Arin Lee Dandes as Pheobe. Morgan Chard handled the gender-bending Rosalind nicely, with graceful physicality that reminded me of Lilly Tomlin's performance in All of Me. It's tricky, I think, to move like a woman thinks like a man moves, sort of like listening to an Englishman imitate an American accent. When it is done well it is hilarious, and Ms. Chard did it quite well. Of Tim Newell's Jacques there is only this to say: my summers would be poorer if Mr. Newell weren't a part of them. He is terrific at this sort of thing, and has possibly the best range of any of the Shakespeare in the Park regulars I've seen.

SiDP always does one show in more or less Shakespearean costume and one in the garb of some other period. This was kinda Victorian, I guess, or maybe Edwardian. I have long yearned for Star Trek costumes, and last night CLA proposed Sports Mascots. We could have Sabretooth, and Mr. Met, and Buster Bison.... In the alternative, how about a Romeo and Juliet with Yankees and Red Sox uniforms?

I was also struck by the size of the crowd and by the audience reaction at intermission when County defunding was mentioned.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More on law school. I have a friend on the faculty of Cooley; he tells me that it views itself as a "law school of opportunity". I know people who got their JDs there; some are capable lawyers, others not so much. The same is true of New York Law. Interestingly-- and unsaid in the stories I've seen-- is the fact that both Cooley and New York Law are unaffiliated with any larger institution. They are not a part of any university. Part of the usual narrative about the proliferation of law schools, law students and law graduates is that law schools are university profit centers, but these two are stand-alones. The crackpot law schools I mentioned yesterday (Notre Dame excepted) fall into a slightly different category. No doubt they make money, but their real purpose is to forward a social agenda. Frankly, the American legal system could do without either.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I didn't know that Michelle Bachmann was a product of the law school at Oral Roberts University, but it explains a lot. It is grotesque that there is such a thing as Oral Roberts University (or Ave Maria School of Law --the law school founded by Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza guy, where Bork teaches. Or the Regent University School of Law, which produced Monica Goodling.) I should be careful, because Notre Dame is probably in this category, but law schools that are run by people who hear voices are not places that should be accredited unless they can demonstrate that they are committed to adhering to my personal favorite Bible verse, Mark 12:17.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It is hard to believe that at these late date it is news to report that Bronx juries are Bronx juries, but since it is a story about Dominque Strauss-Kahn, I guess it is worth noting in passing. Nafissatou Diallo filed her civil action in the only county in New York that is on the US mainland, and yeah, count on it, there is diversity here and the case is going to be removed, probably to White Plains. This has been an interesting case to follow. Although I haven't been keeping up with the tabs, it seems to me that Ms. Diallo's team has done a pretty good job of rehabilitating her. I suppose it's possible that the prosecution might be hurt by the civil suit, but if I were advising her, on the state of the current information, I'd tell her to go forward with it too. Cy Vance's sex crimes unit isn't Bob Morganthau's sex crime unit, and the civil suit keeps the pressure on the DA to go forward with the prosecution.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

We were in Boston over the weekend and watched the Yankees' series with interest. I don't see what is to be done about Jorge Posada-- he looks absolutely lost at the plate, and I was not at all surprised that he sat for the rubber game. Sometimes players just fall off the table, and I'm afraid that's what has happened to Posada. The idea that he might be useful as a DH doesn't seem to be working out-- I'd sure want more production from my DH.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I've known Don Ingalls since I got involved with WBFO, whenever that was. He's a good guy, and a well-intentioned guy who I know is a passionate supporter of the station and of public radio. At the moment he is president of the WBFO Advisory Board. He has a letter in the August 5, 2011 Buffalo News with which I disagree.

The proposed sale of WBFO-FM 88.7 by the University at Buffalo to local public broadcaster WNED is a smart move. Our flagship NPR station will join forces with Buffalo’s two other public radio stations and its public television station, creating new opportunities to serve listeners. A combined operation allows for better alignment of programming, stronger news coverage and more effective use of donor and taxpayer funding.

From its founding by UB students and faculty in 1959,WBFO has earned a national reputation for innovation and leadership. I believe WNED will build on this legacy to make public radio even stronger in the region. I look forward to the next phase of WBFO’s evolution.

These are what are known as conclusory statements. The sale of WBFO is "smart" only if you accept the premise that the consolidation of public broadcasting services in the region is a good idea. I do not. It seems to me that some competition in the field benefits both sides. It is "smart" only if you believe that the educational mission of public broadcasting-- traditionally thought of as one of the form's great strengths, and principle virtues-- is best divorced from the region's leading educational institution. I happen not to think so. It is "smart" only if UB gets genuine value for the asset. I would like to see the evidence for this-- it looks to me like the station has been sold for a mess of pottage.

I continue to be nonplussed by the faint reaction to this sale. I could go on at even greater length about why this seems to me to be a poor idea, but I suppose at some point it is necessary to draw the curtain. I will add only this-- my understanding of the composition of the board over which Don presently presides is that it is is supposed to be composed of three components: UB administration, UB faculty, and "community members". I can understand the last of these thinking that some sort of consolidation of services might be a good idea, but I am disappointed that the university members did not see the value of WBFO to the institution.

The Five Album Test. We've been over this ground before.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

I've been thinking about secular morality for a while now. This article sums it up nicely:
But though both moral and immoral behaviors can be promoted by religions, morality itself — either in individual behavior or social codes — simply cannot come from the will or commands of a God. This has been recognized by philosophers since the time of Plato.
Religious people can appreciate this by considering Plato's question: Do actions become moral simply because they're dictated by God, or are they dictated by God because they are moral? It doesn't take much thought to see that the right answer is the second one. Why? Because if God commanded us to do something obviously immoral, such as kill our children or steal, it wouldn't automatically become OK. Of course, you can argue that God would never sanction something like that because he's a completely moral being, but then you're still using some idea of morality that is independent of God. Either way, it's clear that even for the faithful, God cannot be the source of morality but at best a transmitter of some human-generated morality.
Now add to that the notion that religion is the single greatest cause of humanity's suffering over history and we are beginning to get somewhere.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

I don't see the point of putting Joss Stone, David Stewart, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman in a room with Mick Jagger, although I can understand why Jagger might think it's a swell plan. The result, it seems to me, is just about what always happens when Mick Jagger is in a room with anyone other than Keith Richards: Mick swells up and pushes everyone else to the corners of the room, while remaining essentially empty himself. At this late date there is no point in denying his ability as a singer-- he is expressive, rhythmic and sly. He essentially defines an important category of rock'n'roll vocal. It is a bit of a waste to hear him in a reggae context. He's been doing that forever, and if a different band can't push him, why is he working with that band? Judge for yourself: here's a stream of Super Heavy doing "Miracle Worker". Other than the name, which is stupid, there is nothing wrong with it. I guess I understand why Joss Stone has become the go-to Brit Soul singer, and they sound like they are having fun.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I am puzzled by the fact that there has been so little discussion about the pending sale of WBFO to WNED, but Jeff Simon doesn't disappoint. Regrettably, he apparently feels compelled to slam an innocent bystander along the way. If he could have avoided that he might have made some valid points.

Some background. Mr. Simon has had a WBFO problem at least from the time when  I moved to this city, and probably before. When I was named to the Advisory Board I took it upon myself to try and address him about the issues he raised, as did the station's General Manager at the time, Jen Roth. Jen offered to meet with him on several occasions, but Mr. Simon declined. I took my usual course, and challenged him in correspondence. To the credit of both the Buffalo News and Mr. Simon every time he wrote a column about the station and I wrote a letter objecting to his rhetoric or his claims the letters appeared in print. I've never met Jeff Simon, but for the most part I find that his taste in cultural matters-- particularly in music-- is pretty close to mine. I can truthfully say that I have never been disappointed when I have bought music that he has recommended.

I can also report that since I was term-limited off the WBFO Advisory Board I have had only minimal contact with the station, although I remain on friendly terms with many of the people there. Over the course of the last ten years there have been a number of programing decisions made that have disappointed me. For the most part these decisions amount to dialing back the jazz programing in favor of repeat broadcasts of nationally syndicated programs like Car Talk. Having spent a fair amount of time over the years discussing programing with David Benders I can understand why these programing decisions might have been made, but I have never liked them.

So, with that, some thoughts on Mr. Simon's column. First, he reports that in order to solicit opinions on the subject he started a Facebook thread. This is at once a useful application of social media and a dubious journalistic methodology. The thread is worth reading. From there Mr. Simon moves on to his usual criticism of the jazz programing in Western New York generally and on WBFO in particular. I think that he may have a macro for this. I also think that under the circumstances it is unfair to call out Dave Benders, a guy who has been with the station for his entire professional career. For one thing it is not necessarily true that Dave is the guy who makes the final call on programing decisions. Saying "It is my personal opinion--one in which many concur --that few arts or media executives in this city’s last 40 years have done the city more harm than Benders," is bullshit journalism. Mr. Simon is entitled to his personal opinion, but hiding behind an anonymous "many" is a cheap shot. (I also think it is made up.)

He then quotes Al Wallack, who was a jazz guy at WNED, and presently occupies the WNED position which is the equivalent to Dave Benders': "It had been clear for some time that UB had lost interest in WBFO, from the way they let their jazz programming erode so badly to the fact that they never really filled the station manager position after Jennifer Roth left." This statement is, I think, true, and I think it gets to the heart of the issue.

He then praises the memory of John Hunt, and gives a shout-out to Bob Rossberg. Both have been dead for years. Mr. Simon seems to have never gotten over this, since he mentions them every single time he writes about WBFO. Nostalgia is a disease, and the persistent invocation of these conceded greats does nothing to advance the disussion. He invokes their memory in order to propose that Dave Benders be sacked, which is a crumby thing to do, and then proposes that WNED name a list of notables to the WBFO Advisory Board. Some of the names he throws out are friends of mine; I know most of the others. I have no idea if any of the people that he lists are interested, but here's the thing: even if they were, I doubt that the Jazz Radio Utopia that Mr. Simon envisions (which would, I emphasize, sound a lot like the Jazz Radio Utopia I'd like too) would be brought about by such an advisory board. In order to know that you have to know a little bit about the corporate governance of public broadcasting operations. The enabling legislation, which goes back to the Johnson Administration, got a little muddled in conference, as these things tend to, and as a result so-called "community owned" outlets are not required to have an advisory board. Outlets owned by educational institutions are required to have advisory boards, but they do not serve a governing function- they are what they are called, "advisory". I don't know if WNED has an advisory board-- I can't find any evidence of one, but I suppose it might. Here is a list of the WNED Board of Trustees. Here is the present WBFO Advisory Board.Oh, and just for fun, here is WNED's 2009 tax return.

So here's where I see it. As is often the case Jeff Simon and I agree on the big picture: the sale of WBFO to WNED is a regrettable move by the University at Buffalo. We agree that more jazz programing on local radio would be swell. We part ways on the details: Mr. Simon sees this as an opportunity to hurt Dave Benders, and uses the news of the sale as an opportunity to construct an imaginary radio station that will never exist.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

  Earlier this year, groping around for something light but engaging to read while I waited in the car for LCA's dance classes to end my hand fell upon Madison Smart Bell's Straight Cut, a thriller that had worked well for me in the past. This time I was mostly looking at the way Bell structured his story: thrillers are tricky to do in the first person because the narrator knows what happened but lards the tale with misleading detail in order to throw the reader off the trail and set up the surprises that move the story forward. Straight Cut is "about" a guy who is hired to make a delivery of a locked Halliburon briefcase. The character in question is a film editor, and the novel is full of cool detail about B-rolls and how to synch film and the like. I thought about it again today when I read this story about the the documentary which has been made about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters cross-country bus trip. Anyone who has read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is bound to be curious about what the footage of that trip must look like, apart from being certain that it was a mess. "'If you had to watch all 40 hours, it would be like something out of 'Clockwork Orange,' ” Mr. Gibney admitted. 'They’d have to prop your eyelids open.' He added: 'Kesey had an innate distrust of experts: stay away from the experts. In this case that meant stay away from a cameraman. Imagine how great it would have been if they had a real cameraman. But instead you get all the bonehead mistakes of the amateur. There are no establishing shots, the camera is always jiggling, and none of them had a particularly good eye.'" Indeed. One of the things I have learned from a lifetime of watching movies, and a much shorter span of studying and teaching them, is just how demanding the craft of it all really is. "Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place" sounds like something very much worth seeing, for both the craft and for what it documents. It has long seemed to me that we understand the 60's poorly.

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