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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

As I have said repeatedly, now is an interesting time to be teaching Constitutional Law. One of themes I tried to emphasize this past semester is the necessity of understanding the role that norms and values have in our legal system. It's a subject that I frequently think about: something as basic as the understanding that a statement made under oath should be treated more seriously than an ordinary statement depends on a belief that this is a shared value, for example, as mundane as it sounds, is essential for the courts to operate. Every day, all over the country, tattered courtroom Bibles are employed as a sort of social polygraph. Why does this work? Clap hands if you believe. Good piece here from Five Thirty Eight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

I interviewed some of the main players in the "Hide in Plain Sight" story for an article in Buffalo Spree which doesn't appear to be on line. Glad to see it being screened- it's a pretty good movie

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I'd love to read about Tom Wolfe's time with the Merry Pranksters- or about his reportorial methods generally. Bonfire of the Vanities is about my Bronx, or at least the Bronx I moved in back then, and its verisimilitude gives everything else I've read by him serious credibility. That said, he was a curmudgeonly critic, and an oddly conservative cat. The Painted Word is about as wrongheaded as anything this side of Mailer's Prisoner of Sex. Still and all, if I were teaching a course on the Sixties The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Hunter Thompson's Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, Mailer's Armies of the Night, and James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time would be on the syllabus, along with Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Good piece on the State Department's jazz ambassador program

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

One of the larger points I try to make with my Constitutional Law students is nicely made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
Our system of government is not self-executing. It relies on wisdom and self-restraint. In a democratic republic, liberty is protected by cultural norms as well as by constitutional text. Lawyers and judges bear great responsibility for implementing and explaining those principles. The further we get from the founding generation, the less we appreciate how much everything depends on people rather than paper.
This really gets to the heart of what's wrong with American governance at this point in the 21st Century, and why the stubborn 40% think that what is happening in the country is just ducky. We are being overrun with people who cynically believe-- because they were told this by no less a personage than St. Ronnie-- that government is the problem, and that since government is bad the rules and norms that allow government to function are invalid. This is a kind of nihilism, although it is sometimes couched in terms of libertarianism, and the result is that the most basic norm in all of American culture-- Do Your Job-- seems to have lost its validity. It has been replaced by the adolescent whine, "Why  should I?" Any prospect of meaningful discussion is completely lost when this argument is invoked. Change the subject when someone says this-- talk about sports, or your kids or something, because people who start from there have done no meaningful thinking in their lives. 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Missed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I was in Cleveland; although there are certainly things that are less rock and roll than a rock and roll hall of fame there are also better things to do in Cleveland. Even so, like any HOF the Rock HOF is useful for one thing: nerd arguments about who should or shouldn't be in. Here Bill Wyman (the critic one) breaks it all down for you.
"Gene Simmons is so low rent his reality show makes Keeping Up With the Kardashians look like The Wire."
"Zappa did a lot of things no one really cared about. He was as prolific as anyone on this list, endured a lot of craziness in his life even his outlandish work couldn’t reflect, and died too soon. He also personified some weird griffin of rock: He was unquestionably the world’s greatest doo-wop hairy-hippie stand-up-comic free-jazz new-music rock star. For the record, his humor was sophomoric (and not arch-sophomoric, genuinely sophomoric), and most of his recordings are unlistenable, though of course I’m glad they exist for his fans."
"[Eric Clapton's] solo career, aside from Layla (technically by Derek and the Dominos) and Blind Faith, has a few early radio hits and is then consistent only in its low wattage, without a single album in the last 40 years one could point to and say, This Was God."
Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 30, 2018

I've been thinking about the admissibility of what Michael Cohen might say. A. who is more conversant in the law of Privilege than am I tells me that although his advice to his client might be privileged, the underlying facts would not be. So, for example, a client might say, "I have a prospective deal in the works which will be all in cash. How should I handle that?" Per A., Cohen's response would be inadmissible,  but his knowledge about the transaction would not be. I should research this....

There is also the interesting issue of whether an incentivized witness is credible

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