Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, March 31, 2014

Yeah, baby.
UPDATE: Speaking strictly as a consumer, I can't recommend that anyone but the most enthusiastic Miles Davis completist run out and buy this set. It is terrific stuff, Miles at one of his peaks, playing with a terrific lineup, and it is absolutely superior to the 1970 Teo Macero curated version, because it gives us more context within which to understand what Miles was up to in this period. Macero was quoted once about CD "extras", saying, "They put the mistakes back in!" He wasn't wrong- there are some clams in here, but there are also some eye-opening improvisational sections. The problem is that these are four versions of the same set, played on four consecutive nights, and fatigue sets in by the third. Also, the texture of John McLaughlin's guitar versus the keyboards of Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea on Bitch's Brew is replaced here by Corea on electric piano and Keith Jarrett on organ. It's pretty groovy, but it is also a lot of organ. A real lot. I expect I'll eventually get around to getting a copy, but for now this is something I'll listen to on Spotify.

The New York State Bar News ran my letter:

Problems with legal education not due to tuition costs, but to loans

Dear Editor:
Acknowledging that the crisis in our profession is important, but “Legal Education and the Future of the Profession” (State Bar News, November/December 2013) misstates the nature of that crisis.
Law school is expensive, absolutely, but the problem isn’t cost—it is the fact that the majority of law school graduates will incur that cost through loans which are nondischargable, with no realistic prospect of securing employment.
Fewer and fewer law school graduates are finding law-related jobs, and more and more of the jobs that they are finding are low-paying and unsatisfying. We are producing new lawyers at a rate far faster than the market can absorb, and almost no one is saying this aloud. New York has 15 law schools and imports lawyers from all over the rest of the country. Reining in law school costs will not fix this, and if anything it will make the situation worse.
I still believe that law is a legitimate subject to study and a worthy career to pursue. But I wish that the institutions that should be the most responsible for forming our professional culture would behave more responsibly.
If I were king of legal education, I’d do a few things. I’d eliminate roughly a third of the law schools in the country, for starters. Law schools that are free-standing—unaffiliated with research universities—would be the first to go.I would consider instituting a rule which would limit the number of law schools in a state on the basis of the population of the state. I would require that all law school applicants spend a minimum of one year outside of school. And I might extend the real-world requirement to three years, subject to some very narrow exceptions. I would require that at least 20 percent of the credits required for graduation and bar exam eligibility be skills-based courses.

And I would start looking at optional ways to reduce the curriculum to two instead of three years. (For some, the third year is a good thing, I think.)

That would be a start.

William C. AltreuterAltreuter Berlin

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When it was released I noted that the Bob Dylan at the Gaslight CD would be improved if there was documentation about its provenance. Now there is.

"It was invitation only, and there were probably 25 people in the room. It started around midnight, after the Gaslight had closed for business. The first night was all sort of conventional, original Bob Dylan folk-music stuff. And the second night was the beginning of the Bob Dylan everybody knows."

Liz Winstead on Hobby Lobby:
This isn’t about religion it is about their bottom line. Everyone knows not getting laid is the gateway drug to scrap booking. Seriously, if you are getting it on the regular, your desire to sponge glaze your bedroom walls greatly diminishes. More sex = less crafting. Period.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A couple of thoughts, or really probably notes and questions, on Ralph Wilson, former owner of the Buffalo Bills, now dead. It strikes me that the first response that most people around here had was to ask about the future of the franchise. Buffalo is a funny place-- people around here expect their public figures to be accessible, and for the most part they are. I see the mayor in Wegmans all the time. I've seen Jim Kelly having a catch with his brother in Delaware Park. Ryan Miller walked down Elmwood Avenue like Pablo Picasso. Back before he was a national scandal O.J. Simpson was around and happy to chat with anyone who said hi. Everyone you meet has a Carl Paladino story. The list goes on. My point is that this is a small city that has a very low threshold for pretension. I tell people that the place is more like a big room than anything else, that there are seldom as many as three degrees of separation. Wilson was different. Except for the people I know that actually work for the Bills organization-- or reporters that cover it-- I don't know anyone who knew Wilson, and that is unusual. He was, from all reports, a very private cat, uncomfortable with people he didn't know well. I do not think I ever read an interview with him that gave away any information more than the barest minimum-- and actually, probably, not even that. He was important because he supplied an important piece of the region's civic identity, but he didn't live here. He kept the team here, and we infer from that a number of things, but we don't, I think, know any of those things. He never left a clue as to what would happen with the team when he died-- except he said that it wouldn't stay in the family. For now it will be operated by a trust, which means, probably, that there won't be a lot of big free agent signings or other moves that might make the team more competitive. The lease pretty much locks the team in place through 2023, although there is no such thing as an unbreakable contract, (There is an out clause in the lease that allows the team a one-time option to buy out the final three years of the deal for a payment of only $28.4 million in 2020. Since a big part of the NFL's business model is built on the Greater Fool Theory that number might not be so hard to make.) The league is going to be pressing for a sale, and the trustees will have a fiduciary obligation to get the best price they can-- they aren't in the football business, they are in the business of selling a valuable asset.

And that's the really tricky part. It is nowhere written in the heavens that Pro Football shall always and ever be America's most popular spectator sport. A hundred years ago the most popular sports in the US were horse racing and boxing, and those have faded almost completely from the scene. How much longer does football have at the top? It is an expensive sport, which means that less affluent schools and less affluent families are less likely to support it. It is a brutal sport, which may mean that more affluent families will be less inclined to encourage their sons to play. It is a sport with very little prospect of attracting women athletes, and that is going to mean that schools are going to begin questioning why they are spending the sorts of resources necessary to field a team. It is no stretch to see that the talent pool is going to start drying up under those conditions. If I were one of the trustees of the Wilson estate I'd be working from the assumption that we are at or close to Peak NFL, and I'd be looking to move the property sooner rather than later.

It will be interesting to see how the probate process plays out-- we are going to learn a lot more about Ralph Wilson than we ever knew before.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ralph Wilson dead. For as long as I've lived in Buffalo this has been a moment that has lurked in the collective background of civic worries. The Buffalo Bills have a lease with Erie County through 2020-- so six years on the clock. Forbes says the franchise is worth $870 million, and Wilson paid a $25,000 franchise fee for it when the AFL was starting out. I'm no tax lawyer, but I think that $25k would be the basis, and the difference between the basis and the present value of the franchise would be what the estate tax valuation for the team would be. Does the Wilson estate have the scratch to pay estate taxes on $870 million bucks? Again, I'm no expert, but it isn't immediately obvious to me that moving the team would be the smart play, but keeping it here is going to depend on finding someone with the dough to buy and operate it who is also committed to keeping his toy here in town.

Last night after I showered I noticed a jar of coconut oil on the counter in the bathroom. Lillian had left it, and I thought I'd try moisturizing with it. "I'll smell like a beach vacation," I thought. Instead I smelled like movie theater popcorn. I dreamt about Raisinets and hotdogs rolling into infinity.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Turns out that picking teams based on whether they have cat-based nicknames is just as bad a system as any other.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I'm not made of stone-- I fill out a bracket every March just like everybody else, but I feel guilty about it. My college sports experience was limited to a single season as a walk-on for the Cross-Country team of a D-III school, but even then, and even at that level I had to fill out and sign a lengthy document certifying my amateur status and pledging that I would not accept any gratuities from any source. As weird as that was (to date I have received no offers for a sneaker contract or other endorsements)  there was something kind of nice about it as well. I was participating on a college team, even though I was nothing much at all as an athlete. For me that's pretty much what college sports should be like, and while I understand that it's more expensive to put a football team on the field than it is to start a team of guys in their underwear I still believe that college sports should belong to the athletes, and that athletes are people who want to participate in sports.

Of course that's simply not how it works, and it hasn't been since at least the time when the Monsters of the Midway were students at the University of Chicago. When Theodore Roosevelt reformed college football the idea was to protect the players from serious injury and economic exploitation didn't enter the picture. When I look at college athletes I think the same thing as when I see their contemporaries in military uniforms: You poor chumps. You poor, exploited bastards, you have no idea about the bill of goods you've been sold. I'll tell you what, it would make my heart sing if the first two teams on the boards at tip-off tomorrow just stood there and refused to play for the first two minutes. Take the game back for themselves, you know?  Just for two minutes.

UPDATE: Or maybe something like this.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Just got off the phone with a former associate. If I am going to be remembered at all I'd like it to be for the work we've done recognizing and fostering talent in our glamor profession.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Abandoned golf courses in Myrtle Beach.
We were driving through Calabash, North Carolina (considered a part of the Myrtle Beach region despite being across the state line) when we found Marsh Harbour, our Goldilocks golf course – neither too wild nor too tame. We would have missed the course if not for catching sight of a sign announcing it. The sign turned out to be the only well-maintained structure on the premises. We walked past a smaller sign that said “Private Property” and a little farther in, a sign warning of a dog. But we saw no dogs, nor any other four-legged animals. They were there, though, somewhere – we occasionally heard howls. The course pulsed with a jungle-like intensity, as if it had found its true calling, as if it were managing an exuberant transition to nature reserve.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“The Selling of the President 1968" changed everything. We see politicians differently, and political reportage was never the same after. Read "Selling" side by side with Theodore White's "The Making of the President: 1968" and see what the difference looks like. Both men had access, but Joe McGuinniss knew that what he was seeing was the commoditization of the candidate-- and reported it. Nobody'd done that before, and now we take it for granted. He must have been an interesting cat- to be that ingratiating, first with the Nixon people, who were famously defensive about the press, and had every reason to be, then, later, with Jeffrey MacDonald. Janet Malcolm may have thought that "Fatal Vision" was an act of betrayal, but I've never been comfortable seeing it that way. Now he's dead.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

As we were driving in this morning Big Joe Turner popped up on the radio, belting "Shake, Rattle and Roll". This song is, of course, a peak moment in Western Civilization, and when we were about two-thirds through listening A said, "You know, I don't think I ever really listened to the lyrics of this song. It's kind of.... filthy." Yes, yes it is.

Friday, March 07, 2014

There are a lot of mornings when I miss Raymond Chandler, and a lot of evenings too. Even though we never met, there are not many
men who have had as great an influence on the way I think, and the way I expect the world to act, so even though it is pretty rare for trouble to walk through my office door in quite the way that it wandered in to Phillip Marlowe's very few days go by when I'm not expecting it. Here's something I don't expect: I don't expect that anyone else is ever going to get Chandler right, at least, not on the page.* Sorry Benjamin Black, but I don't care what Janet Maslin has to say about it-- all her review of The Black-Eyed Blonde tells me is that Janet Maslin doesn't know much about Raymond Chandler.

*On film it's a different story. Howard Hawks understood Chandler, and so did Robert Altman.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

As frequently happens, Charlie Pierce gets it spot on. His topic today: Wayne LaPierre's speech at CPAC. Wayne, who has pretty obviously gone completely around the bend, sez:
We trust what we know in our hearts to be right.We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Pierce nails it when he mildly observes that the world LaPierre lives in as "a Cormac McCarthy novel, except without the laughs." The poor rabbit, it's a wonder he can crawl out from under the bed each morning to face the day. I'd like to see a Wayne LaPierre commercial for adult diapers: "It's an ugly world out there, with pants-filling menaces around every corner. That's why everywhere I go I'm armed to the teeth- and that's why I wear Depends." Serioulsy, where does this guy live? I want to be sure to avoid the places where he shops, because it sounds like the Whole Foods he goes to is like a Peckinpah movie.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

I think my favorite part of the Oscars the other night was Matthew McConaughey gently putting a steadying hand on Kim Novack. It was a very human gesture, and my growing respect for McConaughey took a huge leap at that moment.

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