Friday, December 29, 2006


EU hails Bulgaria, Romania's entry into EU family

Wow, now the EU will be 27. I remember back in the day when it was 15. I remember sitting at a meeting of a certain EU committee, and I was just in awe at how everything was translated live into all of the EU languages (12...I think). I couldn't imagine how the live translation of a Finnish speech into Greek could ever be accurate at all, considering you have to go through at least two translators and an intermediary language. Back in 2001, when I was there,I think about 20% of the budget was spent on translating everything into all of the languages. Lord knows how that works now.

Good luck Romania and Bulgaria. Some existing members are expecting a huge influx of migrant workers and nannies from these ex-soviet bloc countries. I think Romanians will have an easier time, considering their language is Latin-based. If nothing else, their entry into the EU might slow down the pervasive sex trade that is run through these countries.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Go Bears!


I think there a few too many bowl games these days, but hey...who am I to criticize. It was great to see them perform at their potential which has not happened since early November.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Une idée belge

I lived in Belgium for a little while, and it is an odd place. Belgians are known to be a happy people who love comics (who do you think invented the Smurfs and Tintin?) and beer. Some say that's because the weather is so atrocious, anyone who has less than an optimistic nature has already committed suicide and so has self-selected themselves out of the gene pool. I didn't find them particularly out-going, but they were always friendly. After spending about 6 months there, I understood where Magritte and many very odd cartoonists had gotten their inspiration. (Cartoon murals appear randomly throughout Brussels). Belgians play the role in French jokes, that the Polish have traditionally played in ours: the butt. The French see their northern neighbors like red-headed step-cousins: lovable in a "our family from the country" kind of way.

Brussels is a bit on the sombre side, especially during the winter, and the other cities, while often beautiful and romantic (see Bruges), lack the Italian/Spanish/Swedish charm that the EU has at least brought to the capital city. Brussels, however, is a city with a very subtle charm that must be sought with Chimay and gauffre in hand. When friends say that they're traveling in Europe, I say that Brussels is really only worth a day or two at most. I mean, come on, this is the top tourist attraction.


It takes too long to find the good stuff. I had a wonderful time living in Brussels and I wouldn't trade it in for anything in the world.

While there, I did detect a palpable distrust between Flandres, the flemish and "dutch" speaking part of Belgium, and Wallonie, the french speaking portion. So I think it was probably a bad idea to do this. (for those of you too lazy to click, the Belgian news station RTBF ran a fake story about how Flandres had declared independence from Belgium and showed images of cheering crowds waving the Flemish flag). There may be some antagonism between the two, but there's no need to incite a riot.

Everyone should just sit down, have a kwak, and chill out.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Early Xmas present from the bay area gods...

a little shaker

Scared the crap out of me, that's for sure. I was halfway outside by the time it stopped.

Merry Christmas to all! What do you want for christmas? Might I suggest... (can you guess what I did at work today?)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

With Friends Like These....

I found a very disturbing article in the NY Times yesterday about detainees in Iraq. Here is an excerpt:

American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

But here is the crazy party, this was not a captured insurgent. Rather it was:

...Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

At Camp Cropper, he took notes on his imprisonment and smuggled them out in a Bible.

Mr. Vance also stated:

While we were detained, we wrote a letter to the camp commandant stating that the same democratic ideals we are trying to instill in the fledgling democratic country of Iraq, from simple due process to the Magna Carta, we are absolutely, positively refusing to follow ourselves.”

I couldn't have said it better myself. If this is how we are treating Americans working in Iraq who report suspicious activity, I can only imagine what we do to everyone else.

On a similar note, I saw Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" the other night on the Daily Show, and what he had to say shocked me (I can't find the Daily Show clip, but here's a link to an interview on "Foreign Exchange"). I know there have been a lot of books about what has gone wrong in Iraq, but what this guy had to say was just bananas. Senior Arabists in the state department were not part of the rebuilding of Iraq because they were not seen as being loyal to the neo-cons, and instead we sent a bunch of people right out of college. This statistic is crazy: half of the people we sent over to rebuild Iraq had to apply for their first passport. These are not worldly people. Here's a Washington Post article about the book, and an excerpt. Apparently hummus couldn't be found, but pork and beans was the standard fare...I'm sure that won the hearts and minds of the Muslims. This makes it clearer and clearer why things have gone the way they have.

I've ordered the book. I'll let y'all know how it is.

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's like voltron...except together, they form the ultimate douche

"Michael Bolton Tribute" and the phrase ending "on ice." I thought it was a joke at first. But this weekend, I saw quite possibly the lamest thing I have ever seen on television. I haven't read the bible in a while, isn't this a sign of armageddon or something? I think this is right before the locusts.

Michael Bolton Tribute on Ice

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (again)

Well, it finally happened. The Guantanamo detainee, Hamdan, whose challnge to his detention and status ended up in this summer's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, which in turn led to the MCA legislation that strips federal courts of habeas jurisdiction, had his habeas petition thrown out today for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

(See order here from D.D.C.)

Interestingly, it does say that the MCA is an unconstitutional suspension of the Great Writ insofar as it extends to those entitled to the writ. But, as Hamdan is a non-resident captured outside of the United States, he is not entitled to habeas relief as a constitutional matter.

I don't think this is going to make us very popular with our foreign friends. If we catch you and throw you into Guantanamo (which was a deliberate attempt to escape the jurisdiction of the courts in the first place), and call you an unlawful detainee, you no longer have any recourse to our courts. Just these military commissions of dubious independence.

Howie, You ARE the Father (of Montel's love child)!

So I watched "Deal or No Deal"for the first time the other night (I know I know, I live under a rock, ok?) and there was something...something disturbing about Howie Mandel. I couldn't put my finger on it...and then I realized.

Howie Mandel has turned into Montel Williams.

Seriously think about it.

I mean, can you even tell which is which? Does anyone else remember this crazy canuck's stand-up days?

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Sun Rises, Humans Blink, Say Sources"

Two headlines struck me as describing non-events today:

"Taco Bell Restaurant Are Safe, Says Taco Bell"
-According to who?

"Nicole Richie arrested for suspected DUI"
-I only look at the 'loids every once in a while, but even I know she's been chasing the dragon and/or shit-faced 24/7 for the last few years.

Even if you combined these stories to say something like "Nicole Richie Suspected of E-coli Contamination, Says Taco Bell," I still don't think I would raise a brow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Proposed New Law School Courses

Having been out here in the legal world for about two years now, I would like to propose a few changes to the normal law school curriculum based on my experience as a plaintiffs' atty doing mostly federal law. I am only kind of kidding.

Moot CourtConference Call: participants shall be graded based on their ability to get multiple parties on the line and not talk over one another. Strategic use of the mute button in order to make fun of the other participants earns extra points.

Corporations Management: A course that describes to you how much of your overwhelming workload you can delegate to your staff without running afoul of any of those tricky "unauthorized practice of law" rules.

Model Rules of Professional Conduct Etiquette: When you are working with several other plaintiffs firms in different cities, how can you go about successfully managing your litigation while not pissing everyone off? This course will answer such questions as "when I get an email from a partner at another firm asking me to do something, do I have to do it?" "Does that mean I know have 30 bosses?," "How nice are you allowed to be with opposing counsel...when (s)he is cute?" and "Can I use emoticons in non-essential emails?"

Civil Procedure Local Rules, General Orders, and Standing Orders: There are these things called "cases" to explain the Federal Rules. This course will explain to you the 14 and 1/2 supplemental documents that are required to file something under seal in the Northern District of California and will answer such burning existential questions as "Do I need to file my 'administrative motion to seal' under seal?," and whether or not you have to call opposing counsel and do twelve push ups before you can schedule a hearing date in front of Judge Smith.

Legal Writing Drafting a Declaration: Can you just sign "under penalty of perjury" or does it have to be "under penalty of perjury of the laws of California" or "Pennsylvania" or "Guam"? What if you live in Guam, but are submitting a declaration in California? This course will also cover when it is best to use "Exhibits A, B, C" versus "Exhibits 1,2,3" or the modified "Exhibit A-1." What if an exhibit has an exhibit? AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Any other suggestions?

P.S. To all of you law schoolers out there, good luck on your exams!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Don't Let La Porte Hit You in the Ass on Your Way Out

Bolton Withdraws From UN Nomination Amid Opposition (Update4)

By Brendan Murray and Judy Mathewson

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- John Bolton will step down this month as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as President George W. Bush conceded that opposition from Democrats would make it impossible for the envoy to stay in the job. (full story)

Woo hoo! It's about fricking time. I mean seriously. This guy couldn't even get confirmed when the Republicans controlled the Senate. Bush is trying to fault the Democratic and Republican Senators who have opposed Bolton's confirmation by saying that this is a bad time to interrupt our foreign diplomatic corps. I think that he has a point given what's going on with Iran and North Korea, but it is Bush's stubbornness that has created this situation. It was Bush who kept Bolton at his post despite the fact that the Senate did not confirm him since his nomination in March 2005. And despite the clear message of the elections a month ago, he re-nominated this guy. You can't blame other people for the problems you create yourself. Although, from what I know about this guy's upbringing, I don't believe that he was ever taught that you are responsible for the consequences of your own actions.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fair Weather Veggie

Once again I am inspired by someone else's post (see generally plagiarism). This time it is my favorite Mlle's musings on being veggie.

After a similar internal debate, I have come to take the following logically untenable position; I don't eat animals with big brown eyes and fur Mammals. It is based on a loose set of events and thoughts.

First, it was an article about how cows were treated that initiated the whole thing for me a couple of years ago.

Second, I am too busy to be veggie or vegan and I like going out to eat. When I cook for myself, I usually keep it veggie, but I don't want to make choosing a restaurant a chore for others. I dated a veggie a while back, and travelling around Europe with her was rough. I don't have time to be really strict. I go to the gym quite a bit, I need protein, and I don't have time to count my beans and rice.

Third, as a practical matter, it's just easier to avoid some meet than all meat.

Fourth, I like chicken.

But I do have two escape clauses.

1) Travel. You can't go to Spain and not eat pork. Many specialties of foreign countries involve mammals, and life is too short not to try time-tested cuisine when travelling.

2) Being a good guest. It's happened a couple of times where people cook mammals for me. If they ask me in advance, I'll say no mammals, but I'm not going to refuse a meal that someone else has prepared for me just because it has meat in it. Life is too short to annoy friends.

Now I now it doesn't really hold together, and I'm not going to get into a moral debate with anyone about whether a turkey's life is worth less than a pig's. This is just how things have settled for me, and it seems to work. It's my way of splitting
the baby the moo cow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

U.S. Grounds North Korea, Revokes TV Privileges, Sends to Room Still Hungry

The U.S. announced a list of the products forbidden for sale to North Korea as a part of the UN approved sanctions. It includes ipods, Harley Davidsons, Cognac and even sports equipment. Well, there goes those North Korean drunk motorcycle basketball tournaments set to "Eye of the Tiger."

I think this is actually an interesting ploy. Economic sanctions seem to usually end up hurting the people more than the government it is intended to weaken. This way, I guess we're trying to weaken Kim by eliminating his ability to reward his cronies with the fancy-shmancy or artsy-fartsy. I don't think North Korea's starving population will miss their Rolex Watches or caviar.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is why

Me: In the practice guide, it says I should contact opposing counsel if I intend to file a motion to shorten time. Should I call them up?
Partner 1: Oh, don't bother. They'll just dick you around.

Several days later...

Partner 2: Hey did you contact opposing counsel about that motion to shorten time?
Me: Um, actually no, bec....
Partner 2: Well you should always do that. That should be standard practice. You're probably going to be getting a bunch of angry phone calls.
Me: Ok, I will. I did ask th...
Partner 2: I'll take the heat this time, but make sure you always contact them.
Me: <<sigh>>. Ok. Sure thing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slappy Turkey Day!!

I'm off to LA for what should be an interesting Thanksgiving with my Uncle who my Dad didn't talk to for 15 years, my Mom and my 14-year old cousin who used to be in show biz. Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Call For Interpretation

I had a disturbing dream last night. It wasn't disturbing in the normal "teeth falling out" or "falling off of a cliff" dream kind of way. It was about my ex...uh...ex "friend." Some context is needed here.

Before my current gf I was involved with a girl for about a year. I will call her "la malinche." It was the most passionate and unhealthy relationship I have ever been in. Our first physical encounter was in an employee-only area next to a freight elevator in a hotel in a different city. That represented about 6 months of sexual tension that just blew up. When we started "seeing" each other regularly, she lived with her boyfriend of several years.

It started out as more or less purely physical, but I think part of why I was so attracted to her was her personality and intellect. Seriously. Don't get me wrong, la malinche is beautiful, but it was more than just a pure physical attraction. I was attracted to her in a very animal, soul-yearning, painful way. Based on what transpired I can only guess that it was reciprocated. Well...the passion part anyway. We did it everywhere: my place, her place when her boyfriend was gone, the library at school, bathrooms, barely hidden corners of public places. She moved out of the apartment with her boyfriend. It eventually became a bit more domestic. We took trips together, watched movies, and had quiet nights at home. Eventually, it almost looked like a real relationship. Almost.

Looking back on it now, I don't recognize myself. I think part of it might have been the fact that my dad was dying at the time, and I was struggling for some sort of meaning. Oh yeah, I was studying for the bar for part of this too. Very odd time in my life. To tell the truth, I don't know if I've ever fully recovered from all of this.

Anyway, she eventually had an emotional crisis, we stopped seeing each other, and as far as I know I think she got engaged to her previously ditched boyfriend. Several months after this all blew up in my face is when I started dating current gf. After la malinche, my current gf was a breath of fresh air. She was attractive, single, and we got along really well.

Ok, right, so the dream. I dreamed about la malinche last night. And we kissed. And it was like it was before with her: aggressive, playful, sensual. I could feel it in my toes. It made me tremble with excitement and I felt very alive. When I woke up, I realized that I don't really feel that with my current gf.

Now I don't know what to make of this. I don't think kissing la malinche was always that good...or at least as good as my dream made it out to be. And I do believe that part of my attraction to la malinche was the fact that she was never really attainable. Like I said, we almost were a real couple, but she went out of her way to remind me that I was disposable.

My physical relationship with gf is pretty good (great sexy time), but I don't yearn for her the same way I yearned for la malinche. Now part of that might just be age, and the fact that I work a lot now (my justification thus far). But my dream made me worry a bit more that maybe...just maybe....I need to find someone with whom I have that soul-wrenching yearning for. Or was that yearning just a function of my dysfunctional relationship with la malinche, and something that I shouldn't look for because it's a symptom of an unhealthy relationship?

I love this song and it kind of reminds of me of that whole "relationship"

Monday, November 20, 2006

You left your what in San Francisco?

On a foggy day such as this, it is easy for me to grow weary of my fair city. And then I see it in the news. I don't know if SF just has a certain reputation, or the fact that it is a certain self-selecting group of people who choose to live here, but it always seems to get world attention in stories such as this (originally found on corriere della sera here, article on same thing from SFGate here). And suddenly I am reminded of why I love living here.

Mark your calendars people. December 22, 2006 is the day to make your contribution to the Global Orgasm for Peace. I don't know if it will help, but it couldn't hurt. According to the people who came up with this latest one (apparently there have been others), this is how one is to let other people secretly know you are going to participate:

I wonder if they know what that means in Brazil? Hmmm....maybe they do....maybe they do.....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lost in Translation

No matter how much I am forewarned, and no matter how ready I think I am for the expected unexpected, I am always surprised by the things that come out of Japan.

Whether it's the strangely shaped pillows

The neck stretcher

The Classic Hello Kitty Vibrator

To me, Japanese culture I think is the most foreign. And I love it. Enjoy this clip about a girl and her hamster. Be warned. NSFW as I found out a bit too late. Originally found on

P.S. I love the fact that the hello kitty vibrator and Milton Friedman are like 4 inches apart on this page.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Farewell Milton

Milton Friedman died today at the age of 94. I am often a reluctant friend and admirer of the Chicago School, but Friedman's contributions cannot be ignored.

Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912-November 16, 2006)

The Roma

I made a comment about "gypsies" over at law school virgin the other day, and it motivated me to write a post on them.

I think my first exposure to "gypsies" was as a child. It always seemed they were depicted as carnies, or fortune tellers, and in an ominous, though often Disney, sort of way. I'm sure I'm not alone here. When I got older, my dad got really into the "Gypsy Kings." Later, I heard they throw their babies at you so that when you drop your bag to catch it, they steal your bag. Never really thought much about it.

When I lived in Paris, I had a special Romanian friend, Karina. She moved back to Bucharest around Christmas time. I went and visited her during spring break. She was smart, educated, easy on the eyes, tolerant and fairly liberal. We traveled around Romania together for the week and it was an absolute blast. Romania is a beautiful country, I highly recommend traveling there if you get the chance, but getting around without a "special friend" might be difficult. If you speak any latin-based language, you should be able to get along.

We spent a few nights on Neptune Beach along the Black Sea. As we were walking down the street one day, a girl of about 10 years-old who had been walking in front of us suddenly turned around so that she was facing us. She had dark skin, dirty black hair, and to this day, the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen in my life. They were a profound greenish turquoise: what you would imagine the color of a moderately deep lagoon filled by a waterfall in New Zealand to be. Set against her darker skin, it was a thing of beauty. I stopped in my tracks and just stood there staring at her: bouche e.

What's wrong with you?
, Karina asked me.

That...that...girl's eyes...they're...beautiful.

Yeah...but she's a gypsy.

It was at that moment, I realized that if this educated girl would come out with a comment like that, these people had problems.

I don't want to go into the details of what you can find on wikipedia or by googling "gypsy," but I think that the Roma are the true diaspora of the earth, and they have always evoked a certain sympathy with me.

Basically, the Roma are only called "gypsies" because of an old mistaken belief that they came from Egypt, and that misnomer exists in several different languages. No one seems to care enough to change it. They don't have a written history, so no one really knows where they came from, but we now think they that they immigrated from India in the 10th Century, but no one knows why. Some say they were disaffected "untouchables." The largest population now is in eastern Europe (especially Romania) and the balkans.

They were the only race other than Jews were who slaughtered during the holocaust, but again no one knows the exact number. About 70% of the Roma population in Poland was wiped out. Dialects of the language were extinguished. Estimates range that from between 200,000 to 1.5 million Roma were killed by the Nazis. Roma victims have never received any sort of reparations, and their slaughter during the Third Reich was only belatedly recognized.

To this day, most countries treat them as a problem. They are not a recognized national minority in most countries, are not represented in local or national governments, and are subject to discrimination and often physical attacks. They live in squalor and unsanitary conditions in make-shift shanty towns. Many Eastern Europeans (not all of course) see them as dirty outsiders who live off of social welfare. While we have abandoned the pejorative "to jew someone (thank goodness), we continue to use "gyp" which owes its etymological source from gypsy, which again, isn't even accurate itself.

And it's not helped by the fact that the Roma themselves see the outside world as unclean themselves and so have no real desire to integrate or participate.

I saw a film about a Slovenian working for Habitat for Humanity, who decided to try and help the Roma in that country. When he was asking local businesses for help, the owner of one business said that he would like to donate 3 and 1/2 cents for each roma person that lived in the community. The Slovenian thanked him for his generosity, but asked him..."why such an odd amount?"

The man responded, "Because that's how much a bullet costs"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bitch (that's what I do)

Based on this rant from first year, I was inspired to have my own today.

Dear Ms. Partner:

When I go out of my way (I volunteered for f's sake) to pick up the slack for one associate who is gone playing GOLF on company time, and another one who has other things to do (like I don't) and you call me to tell me that I sent the extra work I did to the wrong person (because we had a new person hired last week and his role is still vague to all of us), could you at least say, "hey thanks for stepping up" or "thanks for getting that done on such short notice" or really anything positive? Otherwise next time, I'm going to ignore the email like everyone else does around here. That would be great...thanks....

No Way José

José Padilla (pronounced padila, not padiya, by personal preference), a U.S. Citizen detained on U.S. soil, has now been in federal custody for about 4 and 1/2 years. He was originally detained in May 2002 on a material witness warrant, as he was accused of having (not formally charged, mind you) helped to plan a dirty bomb attack in the U.S. Two days before a district court was to rule on the validity of Padilla's continued detention under the warrant in June, 2006, Bush and Rummy changed the authority under which he was detained, now labeled him an "enemy combatant," and transferred him to a military brig in South Carolina, giving no notice to his attorneys or family.

This in turn, led to a habeas petition that was eventually turned down on technical grounds by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. The petition was rejected in part because it was filed in NY and not South Carolina, where Padilla was actually detained. I imagine they tried to file it in NY, rather than in South Carolina where he was detained so as to avoid the 4th Circuit and take advantage of the 2nd. Before a corrected petition could be ruled on by the Supreme Court (which had been predictably denied by the 4th circuit), U.S. authorities finally formally charged Padilla in November 2005, about 3 and 1/2 years after his initial detention and was transferred to a Miami (civilian) federal prison. He was charged with aiding terrorists and conspiracy to murder US nationals overseas; no mention of a dirty bomb was made. In fact, the indictment itself is pretty vague (indictment from ABC).

Padilla has now petitioned the court to have the case thrown out, saying that he was subjected to torture and abuse including sleep deprivation, threats of execution, exposure to fumes, etc. while in military custody. The U.S. denies the claims. The case is set to go to trial in January 2007, almost almost five years after he was first detained in Chicago.

I know this story has been around for a while, but I think that's why I felt the need to say something about it. Here, a US citizen was detained in the United States for the better part of three years with no charge and was only allowed to meet with his attorneys in March 2004. The government's position was basically that, upon the president's unreviewable determination of status as "enemy combatant" the Bill of Rights do not apply to a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. I think the government finally got around to charging him with actual crimes just to avoid a showdown with the Supreme Court.

I think it's also interesting to note that a lot of the "alternative interrogation techniques" that Padilla complains of sound an awful lot like the ones that Bush and Cheney have been advocating are legal and useful in Gitmo and the secret CIA detention centers, e.g. "water boarding." And Padilla was being held in military custody during this time period....coincidence? And I don't think the government can argue that the Eighth Amendment doesn't apply in South Carolina.

Hey about defunding some these thing, huh?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Les banlieus de Paris-Un an après

It has been about a year since the suburbs of Paris and other cities in France were burning. This blog didn't really exist then. So I will take this opportunity to comment on it. Lucky you.

In the U.S., we think of the suburbs as being nice and safe while the downtown area is usually the depressed and dangerous part of a city. Paris is the opposite. Well, that's not totally true, there are some nice suburbs of Paris in the west, but central paris, especially the 16e arrondissement, is exceptionally nice. The suburbs to the north are really the "ghetto" of Paris. I spent some time in Seine-Saint-Denis and let me tell you, it is scary. Unemployment among the young ranges from 50 to 80% in these areas. Crime and drugs are rampant. This is where a lot of Maghreb immigrants ended up several decades ago when manufacturing jobs were plentiful, and now their children find themselves jobless and disenfranchised in the french modèle social. Marseille, in a similar fashion, is also known for being une ville chaude.

It is a sad situation, similar to our own ghettos. I think these riots were a wake-up call to the french, who had grown accustomed to thinking that the their système social could solve all problems of poverty. Not that we're doing much better, mind you. Sadly, it seems that the french authorities, Sarkozy at the front, are reacting in a rather american fashion, by focusing on police enforcement rather than opening a dialogue on what needs to be done to get to the root of the problem. Le Monde article. I mean, I know people can't just run around burning cars, and laws must be enforced, but there's a bigger problem here.

Anyways, here's a great track from a French rap group from Seine-Saint-Denis called NTM. This is from a while ago, but I still like it. I'm not going to tell you what NTM stands for. Ask a french friend :) Bon week-end à tous!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

International Criminal Court: Prosecutor v. Mr Thomas Lubanga Dyilo

Today three pre-trial judges heard evidence in the above-captioned case to determine whether "sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes charged" See Article 61 of the Rome Statute. I believe (please correct me if I'm wrong) that this is similar to a preliminary hearing in the U.S., in which a judge determines if there is probable cause that a crime was committed. Lubanga Dyilo is the first suspect to be delivered into the custody of the court.

Lubanga Dyilo is charged with conscripting children under the age of 15 into his militia (the military wing of the Union des Patriotes Congolais) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If the charges are "confirmed" this could very well be the first case to go to trial at the ICC. The judges have 60 days after the end of the hearing to render a decision.

Groundbreaking stuff. Too bad the United States STILL hasn't signed the damn treaty.

ICC press release.

Come again?

I thought Bush had seen the election results. Apparently he's trying to sneak this one under the radar. If the last Congress didn't like him, I doubt John Bolton will fare much better now.

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 9, 2006

Nominations Sent to the Senate

John Robert Bolton, of Maryland, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations.

John Robert Bolton, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why on Earth Would Britney Divorce K-fud?

Maybe it's because he wanted to be given the "pile-driver" in public.

I know I know. That's a body slam. But "body slam" doesn't have the same sexual overtones. Wait, WWE paid him for this?

Pic from

Bush Says Rumsfeld Is Stepping Down

I think I just came in my pants

A kind of santorum we can do without

And a special goodbye to former Senator Rick Santorum. It is with utmost pleasure that I watch this douchebag get kicked out. This is the man who conflated a homosexual relationship between two adults with bestiality and child molestation, co-sponsored the ill-fated constitutional amendment against gay marriage, and shepherded the Terry Schiavo legislation through the Senate.

Hopefully one day, this will be the only kind of santorum we remember.

Good job Dan Savage!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I am not a partisan person. I am a democrat and generally vote democratic, but I tend to go by issue or by candidate. I am extremely liberal on social issues, but tend to be a bit more conservative (and by that I mean liberal) on economic issues; a libertarian in denial perhaps, if it were not for my occasional anti-establishment socialist outbursts.

For the first time ever, I voted a straight democratic ticket. And as I watch the results come in on CNN (actually I watched it on fox news, just to watch the facial expressions) I could not be happier.

My reasoning was thus: the retardicon party has drifted away from the few things I found attractive about them (free-trade, small government) and has moved to embrace many of the things I despise (unilateral and arrogant foreign policy, rolling back of civil liberties, nepotism, etc.). Most of all, it was the hypocrisy (party of "morality," but then everyone passes the buck with Foley) and the meaningless rhetoric they used to back up their ideological policies forged in denial, with their "cut and run" and "stay the course" and all that other bullshit. Oh and the torture thing. Oh and the complete disregard for process, whether it was creating special federal court jurisdiction for Terry Shiavo, creating secret CIA prisons, suspending habeas corpus for detainees at Gitmo, or tapping domestic communications without ANY regard for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While most of this had genesis in the White House, the party of small government just went along with it, while turning a $236 billion surplus into a deficit of the same amount and increasing earmarks by 10 fold.

So anyone who continues to associate themselves voluntarily with this horrible, greedy, sleazy, war-mongering, vapid party no longer deserves to be elected.

So I am ecstatic that the Dems have taken the House, and if they don't end up taking the Senate, at least there will have to be some damn compromise. Which I think is in every one's interest after the shenanigans of the past 6 years.

What do you think Bush is going to say tomorrow?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Weekend Reading

As I am tired of writing meaningless motions that disappear into the ether, here's something of substance; briefing has begun in two (al Odah v. United States and Boumediene v. Bush) pending habeas cases of detainees at Guantanamo subsequent to the passage of the Military Commissions Act (MCA). The government has argued that the D.C. district and appellate courts no longer have jurisdiction after the passage of the MCA to entertain habeas petitions. This is the first challenge to the MCA (that I know of). The petitioners argue, inter alia, that the MCA violates the suspension clause, and that Congress cannot bar Geneva Conventions-based claim. Cross your fingers.

Previous Posts here and here

More detail at National Security Advisors

Have a great weekend!

Fingerless gloves, skinny tie, and an obvious Colombian marching powder habit? No no no. You're supposed to dress up like somebody else for Halloween. Silly Hipsters.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why Do We Care What You Think? Part I

I have noticed that a lot of celebrities and pundits often give their unsolicited opinion about pretty much anything. And it makes me ask the question: Why should I, or anyone, care about what you think? Whether it's what Nick Carter thinks of Paris Hilton, what that one guy said about Lindsay Lohan's nether regions, or what Bill O'Reily really has to say about anything. I am just floored that what these people say or think is, by someone's definition, "news." As this has been a sentiment I've been harboring for a while, this might be a reoccurring segment.

Nothing illustrates my frustration better than this guy and what he had to say about Michael J. Fox.

Now, in a vacuum, I would also be sceptical about what Michael J. Fox had to say about anything. HOWEVER, Michael J. Fox has Parkinson's disease. He was appearing in support of candidates who in turn support stem-cell research, because stem cell research looks like it could eventually lead to a cure. But Rush Limbaugh apparently decided that Michael J. Fox was off of his meds in the advertisements, and that this was somehow disingenuous because it exaggerated his disease. A few things before I get to my main point.

First. Yeah, sure campaign ads never exaggerate anything, right?

Second. The meds Fox is on quell the symptoms of Parkinson's. Even if he did miss his meds, you would be seeing what the true ugly symptoms of the disease were. He didn't take meds to exaggerate his condition.

But my main point is, why does anyone care what Rush Limbaugh thinks anymore? This is the same guy who fully supported the War on Drugs, saying things like

And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.
and then came out and said that, well, actually he had been addicted to pain killers for several years and was put under investigation for doctor shopping. I never thought the guy really added anything to the conversation, but now he was just a hypocritical douchebag.

So when Rush Limbaugh says the beloved Alex P. Keaton is somehow exaggerating the symptoms of this horrible debilitating disease, I am surprised that anyone cares, not only because his comment was just plain mean, but because this guy is so full of it. Why does this man get paid to have opinions anymore?

A side-note to Mr. Rush Limbaugh himself. You should really consider supporting stem cell research yourself, not only because it could eventually cure leukemia, a disease that you yourself are helping to cure, but also because it could eventually help you get over your own illness now that they have mapped and isolated your problem area:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Konstantzusammenschaft-whatever that is

I would like to thank the Law School Virgin for pointing me towards this wonderful way to avoid work. I don't know about this result though..

Am I wearing perfectly matched flannel pajamas? I think I gave way too many "yes" answers to questions about kink and questionable behavior to have an avatar with a full matching pajama set. That's probably why I'm sitting on the ground there...thinking to myself "where did it all go? It all used to be so exciting! Now look at me. And my Chai Tea is still too hot to drink! Oh why me? Why me?" Although it does look like I have some scratches on my neck....

Update: After looking more at this picture, I think maybe it was supposed to be "Really Gay , Loves Madonna." Not that there's anything wrong with that. Well, except maybe this.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Jersey Same-Sex Marriage Case

So New Jersey weighed in on the same sex marriage front the other day with an interesting opinion in Lewis v. Harris. The court held that preventing same sex couples from enjoying the same financial and social benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy ran afoul of the state constitution's equal protection clause.

So what to do? Here the court split. The dissenting judges thought that anything less than full-blown marriage was an equal protection violation. The majority decided to leave it up to the legislature, giving them 180 days to work out a way to give same-sex couples the same privileges as married couples, BUT, they don't have to call it "marriage;" civil union, or I guess "Bert and Ernie Union" would work too, but the privileges enjoyed have to be the same. So a sort of "separate but equal."

I guess this is a compromise of sorts, but this really seems like a silly distinction without a difference. Is it really just the word "marriage" that social conservatives are so upset about? Or do they feel that same-sex couples are so abhorrent that they should not be given the same benefits as married persons? Is there really a constituency out there that is willing to let same-sex couples marrry...strike that....union-ize?, as long as they don't call it "marriage?"

Media reaction has predicted a backlash, similar to the one that my fair city created a few years ago, saying that once again this will galvanize the social conservatives. I'm not so sure. I think the court has diffused the argument that they are being activist by leaving the remedy up the legislature. I think some of the fear is gone as well. Critics now see that people in Massachusetts and elsewhere are still living in peace and procreating, which has taken the steam out of the argument that gay marriage will somehow destroy civil society.

Plus, I think everyone realizes this time around that there are more important conversations to be had.

From CBC News

Effed up quote o' the day

"With the psychotic, middle-aged Madonna out there on the loose buying up all the stolen Negro babies in Africa, I felt it my social and humanitarian duty to take in any young, beautiful and sexy orphaned Jew teens running wild in Beverly Hills. Cory's a great kid, and I'm proud to be her daddy." -Vincent Gallo, referring to Cory Kennedy. (NYP)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lil' Victory o' the Day

I'm in the middle of a solo intra-office document review, meaning that I am currently going through several thousands of documents by myself looking for "relevant" stuff, which is way too broad of a category. I actually have to read at least part of each document. My eyes start to glaze over at times, I start thinking about lunch, and forget what I'm looking for. I should look up "malpractice" one of these days.

So you'll permit me my girlish squeal of joy that today Gawker posted my nomination for their "Worst Magazine Covers Ever" list, and why I thought it was worthy. It's the March 12, 2006, Time cover about half way down entitled "How We Shop Now." You might remember this magazine cover from my earlier completely unrelated post.

A découvrir

Camille, who was featured on Nouvelle Vague's first album. Strange yet intriguing amalgam of African rhythms, Bobby McFerrin-esque body noises, and Björk-like vocals. Enjoy!

Siempre Nadie

Can you believe this is still going on?
After 35 rounds of voting, neither Venezuela nor Guatemala have attained the 2/3 vote necessary for the temporary seat on the Security Council. Venezuela has put forth a "compromise" candidate. Can anyone guess who that would be? That's right!

Mini Me. Bolivia.

Now again, I'm all for dialogue and having developing countries on the Security Council (should be a permanent seat), but come on now Hugo. This is not a "compromise."

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Tipping Point?

Or maybe the breaking point, or melting point, or perhaps critical mass of bull shit. Granted, we all have the attention span of a ferret that has just imbibed a double-espresso (thanks for nothing Nickelodeon), but there has got to a point where we say "basta."

"It's never been stay the course?" Are you kidding me? While the American public is too distracted to notice some of the more subtle shifts of policy (e.g., why we're in Iraq), we all have heard this one thanks to the ubiquitous talking point. You're just fibbing now George. Can we please just sit down and be honest about this now? Please?

Thank you to my friend (who knows who he is) for sending me this link. Incredible.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Northern California: Part Two

In the interest of a limited attention-span Friday, I thought I would just post some pictures. I have found local area or special interest photos to be an interesting aspect of this blogging thing. So for those of you in CA, these probably won't be very interesting, but maybe someone out there might like 'em. (Direct link to flickr photos).

Lost Coast. Beautiful, if not somewhat difficult to get to.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. That's the GF in the jelly fish display:

Monterey Monarchs:

Point Reyes:

Mount Tamalpais. I thought this would be a pretty picture, but it kind of looks like my Windows wallpaper.


San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Big Sur:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Broken Social Scene

So I guess their follow-up album has been out for a while now (good god, could it already have been a year since I saw them live?). They are the classic indie band, with about 20 people on stage during some sets. They are very intense live, so I highly recommend seeing them if they come through your town. I had just never seen any of their music videos before (thanks YouTube), so I've been reminiscing. I mean working. I've been working.

P.S. Has anyone else noticed that there has been a lot of good music coming from Canada in the last few years?

Out of the Line-Up

I don't love baseball. My grandmother used to take me to Dodger games when I was a kid, but since little league, I just can't be bothered.

I was sad when Oakland got stomped on by Detroit, but I probably watched 1/3 of one game. I'll probably watch a game or two of the World Series, but I'm not planning my week around it or anything. For me, baseball is not a national past-time. It's something to watch when I'm hung over and there's no football on.

My roommate though, who spent a significant amount of time in Boston, loves baseball and the Red Sox. She's not a crazy fanatic or anything, but gets excited during games and knows all the players and who's leading the AL East at any given moment. But I still don't think that she'd spring for this:

Eternal Image Speeds Production of Major League Baseball(R) Urns Based on Enthusiastic Public Response

First Urns to Be Available by Opening Day 2007

October 10, 2006 -- Eternal Image, Inc. (PINKSHEETS: ETIM), a public company engaged in the design, manufacturing and marketing of customized designer caskets and urns, today announced that it has moved up the production of the first-ever licensed Major League Baseball® funeral urns due to enthusiastic public response.

Here's a computer generated image of what they think it will look like:

"So are you a Yankees fan?"

"Me? No, but uncle Henry was."

"Then why do you have a Yankees...uh...thing up there on the mantle?"

"Well, that's how uncle Henry wanted it."

"Oh...he wanted it on your mantle?"


"Why didn't he want it on his mantle?"

Do you see how these things will lead to awkward "who's on first" or "who's six feet under?" kind of conversations?

Oh, and Uncle Henry? If you are reading this please know that if you put yourself in one of these, you're not going on the mantle ok? It's tacky. You'll be put with the sports stuff in the garage.

But don't think Americans are the only ones with strange ideas of post-mortem containers. Check out what they do in Ghana.

Yes, that's a beer coffin.

I understand that a little more though because its individualizing it. I mean the guy liked beer and drank beer, and maybe worked in a brewery. There's another one that's shaped like a big cigarette because the guy liked smoking and owned a cigarette business. That's individual. It's not like Uncle Henry was on the Yankees, you know? Although it will be the officially licenced MLB Urn. Dear Lord, do we really have nothing better to do with our trademark attorneys?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Northern California

Originally uploaded by cerf.sauvage.

Is a wonderful place. My GF and I took this on our last trip together down to Big Sur. Doesn't this look like an advert?

Live in Northern California, but move before it...uh..makes you drunk on wine and chubby on cheese. Mmmm. Cheese.

Here's just the coast line by itself, minus the ad for Napa Valley :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Two Steps Back

After being reminded of the song "Opposites Attract" by some commentary on this post, I thought that "Two Steps Back" pretty much summed up how I felt when I saw this this headline:

Bush Signs Terror Interrogation Law

As I previously mentioned, this is some pretty scary litigation. It is just amazing to me that in the year 2006, we think that holding people without charge, putting people to death based on hearsay evidence and coerced testimony, and denying them habeas corpus is, as Bush put it "a way to deliver justice to the terrorists we have captured." There is nothing just about it. We are compromising the very principles that separate us from terrorism: the rule of law, respect for human rights and dignity, and the search for truth through due process. Why are we turning back the clock to the time of the inquisition?

Here's what the president had to say:

"It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."
I can understand how it provides post-hoc retribution, but how is this going to save lives? Indefinite detention might keep these specific guys out of the picture, but the hate it generates in the Muslim world and elsewhere will create more terrorism, not less. Torture, abbreviated justice, and death sentences will not provide a deterrent to Islamic fundamentalists who are willing to blow themselves up for their cause anyway in order to become a martyr. By giving these guys disproportionate justice via special kangaroo courts, we only play into the rhetoric of Al-Qaeda and other groups who claim that the United States is at war with Muslims.

There is also an interesting debate going on as to whether Congress has the authority to suspend habeas. (Post at Balkanization). To wit: Does the Suspension Clause present a non-justiciable political question? and if so, doesn't that render an explicit prohibition in the Constitution completely meaningless?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Que Lastima!

After 7 rounds of voting, the world can still not agree on who should have the "Latin American" elected seat on the U.N. Security Council being vacated by Argentina: Guatemala or Venezuela. I think that the U.S. has done Guatemala a disfavor by lobbying on their behalf, and it just plays into Chavez's North-South rhetoric. No one dislikes Guatemala, but by supporting the central-American country, the US has allowed Chavez to turn this into a proxy contest between the US and Venezuela.

I think it is high time that developing countries have a permanent place on the Security Council, not just an elected spot. However, I think it's pompous on Chavez's part to proclaim that he should be the porte-parole for all of the economically disadvantaged countries just because he's apologetically anti-American. While I'm sure that sounds refreshing to a lot of people on this earth, it should not in and of itself suffice.
Apparently China supports Venezuela because Guatemala has stronger diplomatic ties with Taiwan (yeah, real mature China). Russia is also supporting Venezuela because of "high-level" contracts Venezuela has with them to buy weapons (See petro dollars). Arab countries support Venezuela because of Chavez's anti-U.S. stance, and Mercosur wants to keep Venezuela in the fold even though its support of Bolivia's nationalization of its oil and gas assets is in direct opposition of the free-market principles Mercosur is founded on.
A compromise candidate might be necessary if this continues.

Tout cela dit, je suis très content que personne n'ait mis en question la candidature de la Belgique, un pays qui me sera toujours très chere. Le plat-pays qui a connu la perspective de Magritte mérite bien une place sur le Conseil de sécurité.
UPDATE 10.17.06: After 14 Rounds, Guatemala 108, Venezuela 76. Rumors of a new compromise candidate are getting louder.
UPDATE 10.18.06, 16.21 PT: After 22 Rounds, we're still in deadlock.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The House Always Wins. So Does the Senate.

President Bush today signed into law the SAFE Port Act which aims to strengthen our...well...ports. It provides funding and programs for improved cargo container inspection. Attached to this bill at the last minute, however, is a federal ban on banking institutions knowingly transferring funds to businesses or individuals that may conduct gambling operations in states and areas where gambling is prohibited.

This online gambling ban was previously a bill unto itself (known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Prohibition Act) but it had received such significant opposition in the Senate that it had been practically dead since July. In response, Bill Frist was able to have it tacked on to the SAFE Port Act: a bill that no one in their right mind would want to come out and openly oppose so close to the elections ("so senator, you oppose container security?").
If you look at the bill, the on-line gaming provisions are at the very end and have absolutely nothing to do with what preceeds it.

While this bill doesn't out-and-out prohibit on-line gambling, it does the next best thing via financial attrition; it makes it impossible to settle bets on-line via any banking system. Eventually a system is to be set up to block such transfers.

I don't like gambling. I've never been particularly lucky, and I enjoy the security of knowing that I will in fact receive something in return when I put money down on a table (aka "a purchase").

I have friends, however, who love it. They love the thrill, and an ex-flatmate of mine has actually started supplementing his income via on-line gambling. He has a gambling "problem" in the sense that he's so good at it, it's actually profitable.

I think this bill smacks of hypocrisy and Republican paternalism fueled by sense of moral superiority. First, people who are prone to abuse gambling are going to do it whether or not there is on-line gambling. There's still horse racing (provided by the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978), Indian gaming, lotteries (a state monopoly no less), and casinos, not to mention the dodgy illegal venues that I'm sure everyone has heard of.

Second, on-line gambling was making gambling cheaper through competition and low-overhead. Exchanges have lowered the costs betting by cutting out bookmakers, and payouts have risen accordingly. This made gambling less dangerous, not more.

Third, by eliminating credit cards you are eliminating a safe-guard that can establish age and betting limits. This can drive people to some of the more riskier options.

I think Internet gambling has risks. Verifying age is difficult, and since you have no idea who you're playing against, you could be more vulnerable to swindlers. But prohibition is not the answer and this would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater (should we outlaw on-line sales because of potential abuse?), not to mention that it never works (see 18th Amendment). Regulate it, but don't prohibit it.

This bill is not about protecting gambling addicts. It's about protecting brick and mortar gambling houses and the states own monopolies while galvanizing the Christian right with the Republicans under a veil of outlawing sin. This game is gettin' old. I fold.

See article.
UPDATE 10.16.06
I spoke with my friend who plays on-line Texas hold-em as a lucrative hobby and he said that he thinks he'll still be able to go through Europe, so all is not lost.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I might be giving away too much here,

stiff arm
Originally uploaded by cerf.sauvage.
but I just love this photo.

Go Bears!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud-a Recommendation

In late August, The Economist gave this novel a glittering page-long review. While I am hesitant to read anything that deals with September 11 (non-fiction seems too real and too spun these days, and any fiction seems disrespectful), I was intrigued. So much so, I pre-ordered it off of Amazon, a new event for me.

This is one of the better modern novels I have read in a long time. It follows a a group of friends from college (Brown) who are now in their thirties for about seven months, March through November of 2001 (thus lopsidedly straddling September 11). The characters' relationships with one another wax and wane as significant others enter the picture, and as jobs become frustrating or non-existent. Each character is prone to intricate self-reflection.

This book paints a picture of post-modern American life that (to me) hasn't been captured before (even absent the appearance of September 11) . Marina is the daughter of a prominent liberal pundit and commentator. Her friend Danielle has the most prominent and stable job, but is way over-skilled for the position she holds. Marina, born silver-spoon in mouth and blessed with good looks, struggles with completing a book deal that everyone really assumes she got because of who her father is. Though Marina's father, Murray, became well-known as a liberal journalist in the 1960s, he is still in demand as a lecturer and commentator. Through the book, however, it emerges that the man has had very few new ideas since his heyday and that he has just been republishing and recycling the same thoughts over and over.

I think the interesting thing is that each character seems to acknowledge in some way that he/she is (to borrow from Catcher in the Rye) a phony. Murray eventually asks himself if he is actually the genius that everyone thinks (or pretends to think) he is. Danielle knows that her job is not as interesting as she makes it out to be, but feels comfortable in the fact that while Marina is the rich and pretty one, she is the smart one with the stable job.

Messud does a wonderful job of capturing the malaise of the young, educated, and unfulfilled. She aptly portrays familiar human sentiments of the now; how everyone thinks that the undeserving often succeed but that they themselves are always entitled to have more: how often we become willing subsribers to systems (capitalism, class, mores) that we once abhored: or how habituated we have become to being forced to participate in systems or play roles unwillingly, just to get by.

The events of September 11 provide a shock to the characters, but each in a different way. Interestingly, it mostly prompts more navel-gazing in the characters, rather than any sort of external aggression.

I really haven't given too much away here. My only "critique" if you could call it that, is that the dialogue is too refined. No one really "talks like that." Even the over-educated. That said, I don't think Messud could have developed this story or painted the images she did any other way. Her prose and character development is amazing.

NY TIMES REVIEW (much better than mine)