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William C. Altreuter

Monday, November 17, 2014

Here's a modest ethical dilemma: you can be an organ donor, or you can donate your body to a medical school, but you can't do both. (You can donate your corneas and still give your body to a medical school, but that's it.) My inclination is that organ donation is the way to go, and if I keel over after I post this that's what will happen: they will check my wallet and strip me for parts, and that's fine. However, if I donate the works to UB's medical school, they take care of disposal.There's a lot to be said for that. Organ donors' families get the hull back, so they still have to deal with all the funeral industry bullshit. It seems to me that organ donation offers the potential for doing the greatest amount of good overall, but I like the idea of finishing up on a slab on campus, and the simplicity of it is appealing. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fridays are Law Days (sometimes) here at Outside Counsel. Today, recent developments in the law of forum non conveniens. At various times forum non conveniens has been a valuable tool to have on our belt. Our hospitality practice frequently involves case in which the plaintiff was injured while on vacation, and until Daimler AG v. Bauman New York's liberal long arm statute meant that suing, for example, a Mexican resort in Nassau County didn't require much of a jurisdictional showing with regard to the contacts the resort had with the Empire State. Daimler is going to be a big mess, but until that all gets sorted out it is still more or less true that New York courts can't do much on their own about  actions that have nothing to do with New York State if the parties want to litigate here. The rule has been that a party must bring a forum non conveniens motion for the court to consider whether it maybe makes sense for a matter to be litigated elsewhere. (As the kids say, See, e.g. VSL v. Dunes Hotels & Casinos.)

Comes now Mashreqbank PSC v. Ahmed Hamad A1 Gosaibi & Bros in which the Court of Appeals holds that although nobody asked to have the case in chief dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, the fact that a third party defendant so moved was sufficient to allow the court to consider the matter globally, and dismiss the whole shootin' match. Even more interesting, the court found that even though the decision to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds is usually discretionary, in this instance the case was "one of the relatively uncommon ones in which dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds is required as a matter of law." There is a lot there to chew on. For one thing, as a general rule a motion for a forum non conveniens dismissal is nearly always best brought in the early going. It gets a lot more conveniens for everybody if there's been some discovery had, for example. New York makes a big deal about what a swell forum it is for international dispute resolution, and it would be interesting to know the extent to which being a favored forum for that sort of thing contributes to the economy. It's not a sneeze would be my guess, but Mashregbank seems like it injects an element which will muddy the waters somewhat. (On the other hand, seeGeneral Obligations Law §5-1402(1).)

As a rule it has been our experience that the best practice is to first remove to federal court cases that we want bounced on forum non conveniens grounds. For one thing, the rules are a bit more straightforward, and for another, since federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction anyway they tend to be less bashful about dismissing stuff. That's still going to be the way we'll go when we can.

Monday, November 10, 2014

More for the Lawrence Brose file: this piece, which appears in today's Buffalo News (and was on line last week) represents the culmination of the media strategy we orchestrated. From our first involvement we knew that it was important to make people comfortable with the idea that they should stand with Lawrence. Some people were with him from the beginning, but others, stunned by the charges, needed to be brought around. One way to do that was for the supporters to make their support more public, which we did by asking them to write letters for circulation to the wider community. Those can be found here. The late Doug Ireland wrote a widely distributed piece--  one of the last causes he championed. And then there were the things we wrote-- for Buffalo Spree, and ArtVoice, and AfterImage, each venue selected to reach a different constituency. Some of this was seat of the pants decision-making, but for the most part it was calculated on our part, and it seems to have worked. In the immediate aftermath of Laurence's arraignment a Google search for his name led to page after page of negative news coverage. That is no longer the case.

The sentencing is November 25. Checks can be sent to The Center for Reason and Justice, with "Lawrence Brose Legal Defense Fund" in the memo line

Friday, November 07, 2014

It's fascinating to see the ways that technology infiltrates our lives, and one of the things that is the most interesting is that it seldom ends up looking much like we thought it would. The Jetsons had Rosie, the robot maid, for example, and back when there was an AOL floppy disk in every magazine you bought (when people bought magazines) there was a great deal of ink spent on "the internet of things". We aren't likely to have household robots anytime soon, at least not like Rosie, and it is looking pretty unlikely that we'll have refrigerators that will tell us we need to buy milk either-- but we are about to get Amazon Echo, and oddly enough it is going to fill that niche.

Echo is a voice activated internet device that looks sort of like a high-tech paper towel roll. It sits in the corner, and when you say its name it wakes up. Then you can tell it do do stuff, or ask it stuff. It's like an ambient version of Siri. What I think is the most amazing thing about it is that it seems as though it will integrate seamlessly into the most banal aspects of everyday life. What is the internal temperature of rare beef? Add milk (it's always milk) to the shopping list. Play "Strutter".  It is a hundred buck piece of hardware that seems as though it will just make things a little easier, a little more hands free, and it comes in a form that I'd have never imagined. Amazing.

Of course, unsaid is what it means that there is a machine in your house that tells Jeff Bezos everything that you do, down to how often you buy toilet paper, but that particular dappled pony left the barn a long time ago, and is frolicking in the sunlit meadow even as we speak.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

I can't say that The Basement Tapes was ever a favorite of mine, although, sure, it's a pretty good album. I haven't gone out and bought my copy of The Basement Tapes Complete yet, but we all know I will. I won't buy the six CD set, because I'm not so crazy as to think that I'd ever sit down an listen to the whole damn thing, but I will buy the 2 CD edition, and I will spend a few Sunday afternoons listening to it. For me the idea of The Basement Tapes was always that whatever Dylan and the Band were laying down was supposed to be underground, and if I couldn't have it in the original, bootleg, Great White Wonder version then I was really not sure I wanted it at all.

Of course, you really need it all if you are to make heads or tails out of Greil Marcus's Invisible Republic, but actually I'm not so sure that I think Marcus has it right about Dylan in that very readable, very enjoyable book. Bob Dylan obviously lives in a very different world than we do-- he lives in a world where he's Bob Dylan, and only he can really know what that's like. Bob Dylan gets it, of course, and he's even willing to open the door a crack to let us see what that's like, but I do not agree that the world he is describing is some vision of "the weird, old America," not a bit. That world may inform him, but he lives and writes about being Bob Dylan right now, and I think that's one of the other ways we tend to misunderstand him. Bringing It All Back Home, or John Wesley Harding,  or Nashville Skyline,  or whatever-- those are sides that are about that Bob Dylan, back there, back then. The Bob Dylan in front of us is always a different cat. Hell, he even sounds different.

I've written before about how I fell off the Dylan train, and how I got back on, and the key artifact was The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3. The Complete Basmement Tapes is Volume 11 of this series, which has been a fascinating alternate way to listen to Dylan. As happens with a lot of music that we love, repetition has worn smooth a lot of the songs that we think of as "Bob Dylan songs", but he's written a ton of them, and an amazing number of them are great. In the Bootleg Series we get to hear Bob Dylan fresh, and it is startling to realize that he would still have been Bob Dylan even without "Hard Rain" or "Like A Rolling Stone", or "All Along the Watchtower". I'm not so sure that The Complete Basmement Tapes offer the same sort of insight. Certainly it fits into a different category: this was Dylan as collaborator, something he'd really not done to that point. (I except his attempts at singing with Joan Baez, as anyone would.) This is, I think, a worthy subject for study, but it seems to me that in considering Dylan as collaborator what we have to keep in mind is that when he has successfully collaborated as a member of a larger collective it is because he has managed to submerge himself in the project. The Traveling Wilburys works. Dylan and the Dead does not. It seems to me that The Basement Tapes is closer to the former than it is to the latter, and I'd even go further and say that The Basement Tapes is more of an album by The Band than it is a Dylan side. This is not an empty distinction: The Basement Tapes was  compiled and produced by Robbie Robertson, and the new set was produced by Steve Berkowitz. It is, I think, unquestionably more Dylan-centric than the original album, although I suppose that may mean that it is somewhat truer to The Great White Wonder-- a collection of demos. 

UPDATE: I love the headline on this review: The Basement Tapes Complete Gives You All The Bob Dylan You Can Stand

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

I was Number 96 at my polling place at 5.53 PM. That's not great-- it trails the turnout for the school board election last May, for example. I make no excuses for anyone else, but the only "competitive" races were for State Senate and Supreme Court. The State Senate race ended oddly: the Democrat won, but he is, at best, a flawed Democrat, with a prior conviction for election fraud. It is, I think, unlikely that he will hold the seat for long. I voted for the incumbent, who was a Democrat once, then ran for and won the seat as a Republican, then voted for the SAFE Act and marriage equality. He got primaried, lost, and ran this time on the Independence line.

The whole process felt kinda dirty, and not in a good, mucking out the stables sort of way. I'm glad that Fred Marshall and Donna Siwek won-- they are both excellent judges, but damnit, judicial elections are horrible. And stupid.

As for the rest of the country, words fail me.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sonia Sotomayor may be the greatest Supreme Court Justice of all time. She was already a contender merely for appearing on Sesame Street (and now I am imagining Clarance Thomas having a conversation with Oscar the Grouch), but she is also, apparently, an awesome person who would be fun to be friends with.
If Sotomayor seems comfortable putting her colleagues through the paces, that may be because she has a penchant for pushing herself. This past weekend, at a reunion event for Yale Law School, she revealed that, when it comes to dancing, she’s hardly a natural. “I can’t keep a beat to save my life,” she admitted. That fact kept her away from dance floors for most of her life until she finally decided, “This is something I want to change.”
And so Sotomayor signed up for salsa lessons. She was 50 at the time and a newly minted member of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Diversity is a concept that is sometimes mocked by the sorts of people who, for one reason or another have never experienced it, and empathy as a judicial quality was expressly derided when Justice Sotomayor was undergoing the confirmation process. On some level the Princeton and Yale educated Sotomayor may not seem so diverse: her educational pedigree  means that she can join clubs that I can't, and I'm a white middle-aged male. Confronted with the two of us, Oliver Wendell Holmes would have handed Justice Sotomayor his coat, and asked me to join him at the bar, and that all by itself is why it is so great to have a Supreme Court Justice that took salsa lessons at 50.

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