Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

I've been thinking about "Kentucky Rain". It is certainly one of my favorite Elvis songs, especially to  sing along to, but I have questions.

Seven lonely days
And a dozen towns ago
I reached out one night
And you were gone
Don't know why you'd run,
What you're running to or from
I think she's running from you, guy. Just a hunch.
All I know is I want to bring you home
This controlling attitude may be part of the issue, don't you think?

So I'm walking in the rain,
So she took your car?
Thumbing for a ride
On this lonely Kentucky backroad
I've loved you much too long
And my love's too strong
To let you go, never knowing
What went wrong

Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead's another town
That I'll go walking thru
Maybe you should have called a friend with a car before undertaking this little adventure. Don't have a friend? I think the picture may be coming into focus
With the rain in my shoes,
Proper footwear is important. You should have taken this into consideration
Searchin for you
In the cold Kentucky rain,
In the cold Kentucky rain

Showed your photograph
To some old gray bearded men
Sitting on a bench
Outside a gen'ral store
They said "Yes, she's been here"
But their memory wasn't clear
Was it yesterday,
No, wait the day before
Thanks for nothing, old guys. Also, do you really think you are going to catch up to her on foot at this point?

So I fin'ly got a ride
With a preacher man who asked
"Where you bound on such a cold dark afternoon?"
As we drove on thru the rain
As he listened I explained
And he left me with a prayer
That I'd find you
I'll give the preacher man this much, he was more helpful than the old men back at the store.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Greil Marcus is a curmudgeon's curmudgeon, which means that he is a romantic. "Ask Greil" is one of life's small pleasures for me: it reads like the few minutes before a really interesting graduate school seminar starts, when the students and the instructor talk about things that they've been reading, or listening to, or seeing. It is not unusual for me to find that I disagree with a particular statement, but pinning down the basis for my disagreement is itself a worthwhile exercise. So, in response to, "If you had to guess, for how long do you think the United States of America will continue to exist?", he says, inter alia, "The virus may leave the country in such a state of deprivation and confusion that it will accept anything."

This is the response of a true romantic, and a true patriot. Teaching Constitutional Law in these times has been a journey for me, particularly because my students are mostly persons of color who have no illusions about how the United States government works. My task is to show them how it might work if it lived up to what it promises, and to do this credibly. This is no light undertaking, but because I am a romantic I sincerely believe that pushing within the system can result in individual good results, and that the accumulation of just results might result in a better society.

It is therefore a relief to me that the virus does not seem to be winning, and that on a political level Marcus' fear that people will be beaten down to the point that we will accept anything has not (perhaps yet) come to pass. For whatever it's worth I am not so sure that this is due to some innate quality in our national character- I am not that romantic, and I see an America that terrifies me in the 40% or so who appear to have come to the nihilistic conclusion that government is bad, and other people seek to steal our things, and all the rest of what are apparently the deeply seated beliefs of the profoundly alienated people who will be voting Republican in four months. On the other hand, the pandemic seems to have had the opposite effect from that which fretted Marcus back in April. Immersed in the grey static background of social isolation the present social justice movement came into sudden, sharp relief. The video of George Floyd's murder was like the moment when a television suddenly finds the signal: from the void between stations came an image of what America looks like that was so clear, and so ugly, that the only rational response has been to demand that the government act. This is, I think, a very good thing. Among the 40% the idea has long been that government is an impediment to liberty. Among the rest of us there was a kind of resignation. I don't think we are resigned any longer. The pandemic - which is a long way from being over- has demonstrated to the satisfaction of many that government is necessary, and I think we see now that the pandemic is as much a political crisis as it is a natural disaster. The good news is that political crisis's lend themselves to political solutions, and I believe that we are working towards those solutions.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Like Marylin Monroe A sleeps with the radio on. This means that we frequently get BBC overnight followed by NPR's hourly news update. The difference is striking on a number of levels, but one notable divergence is that the BBC plays longer clips from Trump's speeches, while NPR tends to summarize them. The effect of the latter is to normalize the President's spittle-covered ravings. He really is a raging id-monster who spews hatred with nearly every syllable. He is also, incredibly, a profoundly stupid man who appears to be in significant cognitive decline. Does he believe any of it? I can't say that there is any evidence of a thought process in his speeches- apart from the visceral emotional appeal he is making to the reptile brains of his supporters I can't discern any sort of coherence in the things he says, and the way he says what he says makes it appear that he is even stupider than George W. Bush- something I'd have thought nearly impossible in a functioning adult. I can't even say that he comes across as shrewd- he is operating on the level of pure emotion.

 NPR is shielding us from reality, and failing in its mission. And I am terrified by the fact that there are Americans who either don't see what this man is doing, or are enabling him in spite of it- especially every single Republican, elected or electorate.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Funny James Baldwin quote about Norman Mailer: “… matters were not helped at all by the fact that Negro jazz musicians, among whom we sometimes found ourselves, who really liked Norman, did not for an instant consider him as being even remotely ‘hip’ and Norman did not know this and I could not tell him … They thought he was a real sweet ofay cat, but a little frantic.”

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