Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To the Show Me State over the weekend to visit the Smarts. Cape Girardeau, on the banks of the Mississippi, is home to South East Missouri State, where Mrs. Smart, as I may have mentioned, is employed as a librarian. It's a quaint little town, population a hair shy of 30k.
There isn't much else around, so the university and the federal district courthouse (named for Rush Limbaugh's father) make it a regional center. I like college campuses. All of them manage to have something special, and this one's claim on my attention is that it houses one of the largest collections of William Faulkner manuscripts and Faulkneria. Got to see his typewriter, which is pretty much exactly the kind of thing that I love to visit.

 We also got a bit of a hike in at Trail Of Tears State Park, along the ridge above the river. In addition to Southerners, Missouri is full of ticks, so we had to be careful to check ourselves and the dog afterwards to be sure that we didn't pick up any blood sucking pests. You can catch Republicanism that way, and the ticks are also vectors for disease.

Further notes. Man, there is more Ohio than anybody needs. The first time I saw a road sign for  Ashtabula the Dylanologist in me thrilled-- obscure place names are part of the fun of Dylan after all, and it's a little surprising that he hasn't name checked Cape Girardeau. Now Ashtabula is just a sign along the road that tells me I am further away from where I belong-- and closer to the real America that gives me the yips.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Frank Rich on Clinton sex scandals. Actually, on Bill Clinton sex scandals. 1992 was a long time ago, but few things have changed. Ol' Bill still makes Republicans froth at the mouth, and Hillary does too. For some reason these people seem to think that sex is the way to get other people to dislike the Clintons. Oh, and just for fun I went back and had a look at the 1992 Democratic Primary. You know, people act as though Hillary's talk of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was Easter Bunny stuff, but do the math. The Gennifer Flowers story was brought to us by Rupert Murdoch's Star Magazine. (Later, of course, CBS and the NYTimes had good fun with it, because Liberal Media.) Going into the convention the delegate count stood thus:
Now, think back. Do you recall Jerry Brown, or Paul Tsongas hammering, or even mentioning, O'l Bill's sexual adventuring? What about Pat Schroeder? No? Me neither. It's not that it was a non-issue: surrogates made references to it-- but for the most part the focus was on policy and "electability". My remark at the time was, "What I hate about Clinton is that in November I'll be voting for him."

I mention all of this now because it seems as though a dependable conservative tropism is to insist that something will work even after it has been conclusively established that it will not work, it has never worked, and it always ends badly. It's not just wars. It's climate science-- or the way they talk about science generally. Think about economic policy. Try this one one for size: every time the question of raising the minimum wage comes up conservatives howl that it will cause layoffs and unemployment. Of course it doesn't. So here we go again, the people who are always wrong about pretty much everything are going to talk about sex. The sex that Bill Clinton had, the sex that married gay people have, all the sex. Good luck with that.

Friday, April 04, 2014

When EGS was applying to grad schools one application (I forget which) asked her to list any patents that were in her name. Oh my god, the wailing. "I don't have any patents! Why didn't anyone tell me?" We all felt bad. Obvioulsy it had fallen to us to make sure she invented some stuff early in life, and we'd failed as parents.

A couple of nights ago I pushed the button on the range hood to turn off the fan-- and it didn't work. The fan kept whirring. The other buttons worked-- I could turn the light on and off, and I could make the fan louder and more annoying, but the Off button had quit.

Wednesday night, when I got back from class A said, "We have to call an electrician to fix that."
I said, no, I suspect that it is just gunked up with grease. I can fix that. She said, "Okay, fix it." So I took a screwdriver to the thing, and found that it was three parts. There was a brushed steel panel that was die cut for the buttons to poke through.There was a metal frame behind that which secured a black box to the hood itself, and the black box. The black box had five small rods coming out of five little holes. These were the buttons that protruded from the brushed steel panel, one for High, Medium, Low, Off and the light switch. Now I had a the brushed steel panel, the screws, the metal frame, and the black box, which was dangling from the hood, suspended by a bunch of wires. I pushed the button for High, and the button for Off sprang off and rolled under the table. They were, I now recognized, spring mounted, and unsecured to the black box now that I had removed the brushed steel cover. I retrieved the errant button from where it had rolled, and put it with its friends, the other bits and pieces. Then I looked  at the black box. It had screws as well, but it looked to me like those screws held the mysterious inner workings of the box in place. There did not appear to be a way to open it, and I realized that I had probably already done enough damage  by proceeding four screws into the demolition, so I decided to put it back the way I found it.

Of course, the entire apparatus was coated with a delicate patina of old grease, and I was operating on a wall mounted piece of equipment that was over the stove and over my head, so I couldn't really see what I was doing. I tried contorting myself, limbo-like, over the stove, but I couldn't get the angle right, so I fiddled around behind the hood trying to get the pieces to fit. Unfortunately, this seemed to have to involve turning the black box towards to floor, which made the buttons fall off. Also, I could not recall how the pieces had fit together. The frame thing and the brushed steel thing seemed like they should nestle together, but they wouldn't.

A, becoming exasperated with my growing exasperation, (chiefly manifested by increasingly loud swearing,) told me to step aside. She took the little rods that were the buttons and put them back in the holes where they lived. She pushed the Off button, and the other buttons flew across the room. I washed my hands and opened a beer. A retrieved the buttons and started trying to fit the frame thing and the brushed steel thing and the black box together. I took a sip of my beer. Things went on this way for a while, then we stuck the black box up into the works, covered it with the vents and went to bed.

 Yesterday the electrician came. He looked at the little black box. He took one of the buttons and put it in the hole for Off. Then he put the other buttons in their holes. Then he pushed the Off button. Then the buttons flew out at him.

 It appears that it may be broke for good. So perhaps Emily should have invented a better range hood. Or perhaps the fact that she did not is due to genetics.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Lot of Dylan content lately. Better lawyer it up a little: TV Lawyer Ads. The weird thing is, they work. Some years back our office manager's brother was injured in an accident. The family sat around the kitchen table, and had this conversation:

Tony: I guess I need a lawyer.
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work
Tony's Younger Sister: You need to get a lawyer!
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work
Tony's Younger Sister's Husband: What about those guys on TV?
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work.
Tony: How about these guys, on the back of the Yellow Pages?
Tony's Younger Sister's Husband: Those guys look good.
Tony's Younger Sister: You should call those guys!
Bill's Office Manager: Bill does that work.
Tony: I wish we knew a lawyer!

In a related point, this is pretty much why McCutcheon v. FEC is such a catastrophe. Expecting critical thinking from people in the face of media bombardment is pretty hopeless, but when choosing a lawyer, or a hamburger, or a terrible mass-brewed beer the harm is more or less limited to the person who has made the poor choice. In a democracy, however, there are quite a few people who are prepared to believe that the government shouldn't be able to make you have health insurance, or that climate change is made up because it snows, or whatever. In other contexts these people are called chumps, or marks, and for all I know that's what Reince Priebus does call them-- Mitt Romney very nearly said it aloud.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jonathan Lethem's liner notes for the Dylan in the 8os collection.As I write this I am revisiting Infidels, which is arguably the most solid set of Dylan's work from this period. I actually quit Team Bob with Street Legal in 1978, and didn't come back until 1991's Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3. What I have found in the years since is that Dylan rewards returning. Consider the most recent addition to the Bootleg series: Self Portrait suffers from many of the same faults as the 80's work, without the religion. The production is dreadful, the material is spotty, and it all seems kind of thrown against the wall. And yet-- as Another Self Portrait shows us, it might not be as bad as we thought. Right now my favorite Dylan set is Bootleg Vol. 8- Tell-Tale Signs, which is almost like putting on a pair of jeans and finding a $20 bill in the pocket. All of a sudden you have something nice you weren't expecting at all.

Cover sets like this help to make us recognize how complete a songwriter ol' Bob is: sure, his lyrics are what gets singled out, but he writes great songs and too often the fact that his melodies are every bit as important as the words. 

One other point about Dylan in the 80's: often overlooked in this discussion are the two Traveling Wilburys' sets. Dylan kicks back on these, and sounds great. It may be that the real problem with the 80's sides was that his output exceeded the amount of quality material he had on hand.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tabasco ice cream. I think I need to try this.

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

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