Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ooooh Ooooh That Smell!

So we've had a couple of hot days here in the city. I can't tell you how hot, because I can't seem to find past weather conditions on the web. Only forecasts. I heard someone today say it hit 90 degrees. Now I know all of you in the humid east coast or the blazing south west might scoff at this, but our little city is not prepared for that weather; No one has air conditioning and none of us are used to hiking up these damn hills when it's above 70.

Apparently neither are city officials.

Yesterday, as I was leaving my office, I noticed a distinct aroma of barnyard. In a very Proustian way, I was taken back to when I used to ride horses or go to the tri-county fair and look at pigs. I stopped, checked the bottoms of the souls of my shoes and kept walking. But the stench persisted.

"No one else seems to be noticing, god it must be me," I thought, as I sheepishly made my way to my gym. But as soon as I stepped into the gym, it was gone. Until I walked out of the gym, when I was once again bombarded with the stench of poo.

It can't be me, right? I casually brought it up with some friends. Nope wasn't me, they smelled it too, and had gone through the same ritual of checking the bottoms of their shoes on the way home.

I then found this Chronicle after searching for a bit. Turns out that the, ahem, sewage boxes that surround the city couldn't handle the heat and started stinking.

First, WE HAVE SEWAGE BOXES THAT SURROUND THE CITY?! What will happen when the big one hits? Did we build a shit moat to keep out republicans?

Second, Yuck. We only have a few nice hot and really sunny days here in the city, where you want to sit outside in the sun and have a nice glass of pinot grigio after work. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about the smell of feces that just ruins the mood.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On a different note

Greek Firefighters have the coolest helmets ever.
My sympathies to the families that have been affected and displaced.

Photo from the

Beware of Catchy Music in the Men's Bathroom

and don't tap your foot to it. Unless that's the kind of thing you're into.

Idaho Senator Larry Craig today announced that he regretted pleading guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct that stemmed from his arrest during a sting operation in a Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport bathroom. Allegedly, Craig was attempting to get it on with the undercover cop in the bathroom stall next to him by making repeated eye-contact, tapping his foot, and making sweeping gestures with his hand under the stall divider (Police Report).

Now I'm not fluent in "anonymous gay bathroom stall sex" sign language, or at least not the Midwestern dialect, but that does seem like odd behavior.

Craig said that he plead guilty to the lesser charge of "disorderly conduct," even though he did nothing wrong, just to try and make the whole thing go away.

The Log Cabin Republicans (a gay republican group) were quick to jump to his defense.

Senator Larry Craig's ability to continue serving the people of Idaho is in serious doubt . . . . He has violated the public trust, not just with his inappropriate and illegal behavior, but in the subsequent explanation of his actions. Innocent people don't plead guilty. The time to contest these allegations would've been before his guilty plea.
As an aside, I've never understood the Log Cabin Republicans to be quite honest. I don't get the metaphor (Lincoln?syrup?), and I don't understand how they know...exist. And it doesn't look like I'm going to start now. "Gay Republican" just sounds like a non-sequitur. It would be like "Jewish Nazi" or "Bespeckled Khmer Rouge" or "Compassionate Conservative." These things just don't go together.

Anyway, I'm not really all that surprised that an anti-gay rights Republican turns out to be a little kinky with the boys. I mean, it's not like that's never happened before. And it seems Mr. Craig himself has had a few similar incidents in the past.

I disagree with the notion that no one pleads guilty when they're really innocent. For many, pleading guilty might be the best option given the time and expense it takes to fight criminal charges. To say otherwise would be the equivalent of saying that a prosecutor would never plead to a lesser charge when he or she believes the suspect is guilty of a more serious crime. Maybe like in this case. Sometimes it comes down to cost/benefit analysis.

I don't really know what's so bad about this really. As long as it's two consenting adults, what's the problem? I've had sex in a bathroom stall. In a girls bathroom though. It was a long time ago. What was I talking about?

Oh right. But I do think the Log Cabin Republicans are right in one respect. I think they're right to try and distance the gay community as a whole from this incident. I feel like a lot of the consequential outrage of this was unleashed toward the gay community as a whole, rather than the smaller subset that gets a kick out of this.

For example, here is Tucker Carlson's reaction. In this video clip from Gawker, he explains how when he thought he was being propositioned in a bathroom in Georgetown, he went and got a friend, came back to the bathroom and beat the crap out of him.

Anonymous gay sex in a bathroom is at the very worst, kind of icky. Hate crime in a bathroom is absolutely disgusting.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bedtime for Gonzo

This week in "It's about effing time," Attorney General Gonzales has resigned. I think it is fitting that two years since Katrina and the shameful discovery that Bush had appointed a friend with no experience as the head of FEMA, that we once again learn the price of nepotism and of appointing people based on loyalty.

While Gonzales has impressive credentials (unlike many other appointees and attempted appointees like Harriet Miers), his loyalty to this administration was dangerous to us all. The head of the Department of Justice must have the independence to question the legality of executive branch decisions, not rubber stamp and advocate them. Whether it was the questionable firings of some of the U.S. Attorneys, or the highly suspicious hospital visit to get Ashcroft's ok for the domestic surveillance program, Gonzales has been no friend to the office or the Constitution.

¡y adiós muy buenas!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Pick-Up Artist: Part Yawn

I only caught the last half-hour of Monday's episode of the Pick-Up Artist, and I have to say that I have no discernible reaction to it. Some of the dudes got better at picking up chicks. Some didn't use the correct magic spells. Someone got voted off of the island. Someone had to swap wives. Someone didn't get the magical elven medallion, the others did. I think the initial shock value of the whole thing has sort of worn off for me.

Wait a minute.

Did I fall prey to Mystery's magical spell? Is this whole show a "neg" or a "gambit" or a "set" or something? Oh my god. He used me, spit me out and then convinced me it was my own decision!

[end of transmission]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Branch of Iranian Military To Be Designated a Terroritst Organization

It was only in May of this year, that the U.S. and Iran agreed to high-level face-to-face relations after more than 20 years of diplomatic cold-shouldering. Although the U.S. agreed to the meeting solely on the condition that they only talk about Iraq, it was a momentous occasion, and the recommencement of perhaps a new (or any) dialog.

So then why, only 3 months later, would you decide to designate a branch of Iran's armed forces as a "terrorist organization?" Now don't get me wrong. I can be convinced that Iran is up to no good in Iraq, and their complete disdain for the International Atomic Energy Agency and all international norms surrounding nuclear proliferation is dangerous and frustrating. However, I do not think that designating a part of its military a "terrorist organization" is a good idea.

It will be the first time in history that the military of a foreign sovereign has been so designated. It's an off-handed way of accusing the whole country of sponsoring terrorism, which the U.S. has already done. It is also a just plain disrespectful way for one sovereign nation to deal with one another.

I think it will also end up being, like so many of the policies and decisions made by this administration, completely counterproductive. Unfriendly Muslim countries and organizations now have more fodder for their arguments that the United States is really at war with Islam generally and that the U.S. is acting unilaterally. This claim is also just asking to be responded to with cries of hypocrisy, given that it is our armed forces who find themselves in foreign lands.

I also think it will cause us to lose the favor of any remaining Iranian friends. While many in Iran are more reform minded and do not agree with the current bent of their leaders (I feel your angst, trust me), it is quite another thing to bad mouth an institution that is seen as being the forces loyal to Khomeini (and thus responsible for the Revolution in 79) and known for their bravery in the Iran-Iraq War. I'm not a big fan of our government right now, but I wouldn't take too kindly to another country designated the Marines as a "terrorist organization."

Coincidence?! My Patraeus!

Today, the White House announced that Gen. David Petraeus, will likely testify to Congress about progress in the war in Iraq on September 11 or 12. The fact that it may or may not fall on the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, are, of course, pure coincidence. Which makes total sense, because everyone knows that September 11 and Iraq aren't related at all. Who ever thought that? I mean, why are we even taking about this?! What a crazy idea!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Pick-Up Artist: Episode 2

Chained to the wall and against my will better judgment, I watched the second episode of this show. Well, kind of. I was actually on the phone with the gf during most of it, and just kind of had it on in the background, which probably means something, but I'm not sure what for the moment.

So far, this show seems to focus on how to try and meet women in bars and clubs. Though I've never been to Austin, I don't care who you are, this is a tall order. I think meeting girls in the supermarket, dance classes, or at places of normal social interaction might be a little less intimidating. There is a self-selecting population that chooses bars and clubs, and they are not the most easily impressed. But I guess if you can be successful there, the rest will be easy. Or overkill.

Then, you're dealing with men who seem to have social skills issues generally. I have to say, some of the techniques this mystery fellow was talking about don't seem all that stupid. They seem like they would be applicable to any social situation in which you find yourself in a sea of strangers. I haven't actually seen any techniques that are totally objectifying towards women specifically. For example, having some intro story or gimmick ("gambit" I guess is mystery's term for it, which reveals his true inner dork. No insult intended, I have books on chess openings. OMG, is that a "neg"? What is happening to me?) when you first meet someone. I think we all would be lying if we didn't have a few well-tested stories in our quivers to help us break the ice or carry the conversation when it seems to have stalled.

And I'm not sure if I find it disheartening or refreshing that he has tossed the whole "just be yourself" thing out the window. There are times to be truly yourself, but being in a situation where you're trying to be interesting to strangers isn't necessarily one of them. I do find the encouragement toward unflattering fashion, hair highlights, and piercings to be a bit a questionable. The word "poser" comes to mind. There are people who can pull some of these things off, but they are few and far between. There is a fine line between making yourself different from those around you and just trying too hard.

My favorite part though is the system of color-coded medallions that demarcates each man's ascendancy into pick-up artist-dom. This sounds a lot like D&D to me, which would make total sense, given that Markovik used to play the game. Think about it: you cast magic spells on women, and then as you get elevated in rank each week, you are given a magic medallion.

These wooden goggles with the slits are essential when you are a Level 4 Warlock on the the Ethereal Plane of Eberron.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Circular Reasoning, Rendition Style

According to the Pentagon, all 14 "high-value" detainees who had been previously held in the secret CIA prisons (whose very existence the administration didn't exactly confirm or deny for a year), and who were transferred to Guantanamo, have now been determined to be "enemy combatants" by a status review tribunal. I mean, they were detained at the secret CIA prisons, so they're obviously enemy combatants, right?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Trois Mois de Sarkozy: un bilan inattendu

During the French presidential campaign, critics of Sarko were worried that he was too "Anglo Saxon" and that he might be too cozy with the United States (an estimation that I disagreed with somewhat). Well, it seems that he's kind of American in at least one way. He's proven to be a unilateralist .

Despite ongoing efforts by the EU to free the imprisoned Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor that have been held in Libyan custody for the last eight years (imprisoned and later convicted of deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV on highly disputed evidence), Sarko and his wife decided to take the matter into their own hands last month.

In what seemed to be a tit-for-tat exchange, Gadhafi agreed to release the prisoners and France signed five key agreements on future cooperation, including deals on defense and civilian nuclear energy, with Libya. Other European countries, especially Germany, cried foul, and accused France of being unilateralist and stealing the thunder of what had been previously a concerted EU effort.

Someone accusing the French of being unilateralist? Wow, I guess it runs full circle.

Article form Der Spiegel

Monday, August 06, 2007

Why Do We Care What You Think? Part III: You Give Love, a Bad (Icky Icky Groddy) Name

A 35 year-old man who goes by the name "Mystery"(aka Erik Von Markovik) is going to be hosting a show on VH1 called "The Pick-up Artist," in which he and some cohorts try to get a couple of guys laid (trailer via youtube).

When I first saw this photo and trailer, I thought that his method must involve dressing up like a goth version of "The Arftul Dodger" from the musical "Oliver!" so that the other men look relatively less douchebag-esq in comparison.

Not so.

Apparently this ex magician has a whole pick-up artist system worked out, has written a book, and travels the country giving seminars to sad sad men in search of companionship; which reminds me of Tom Cruise's character from the movie "Magnolia." Except of course, in that movie, the pick-up artist is deliberately shown as a charismatic misogynist. This non-fiction version of the charismatic misogynist has a system that involves something called "negs" which are when men are supposed to say or do something that briefly disqualifies them from being considered a potential suitor; such as blowing one's nose and then saying "What, are you going to watch?" He says these things disarm the woman and her friends.

I don't understand this logic, and I think these "negs" are close to being "disempowering" rather than "disarming." In the article I stole most of this content from that was the inspiration for this post, he actually starts trying to hit on the girl interviewing him. When she says she's all out of questions, he comes up with this stunner:

"You're funny. Have you ever been to a club?"
Gee, I don't know. Have you ever shaved your hat?

He then proceeds to call San Francisco "San Fran." Not a way to get in good with a local

For a much more helpful and insightful commentary, check this out

Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Vh1 available at

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Plaintiffs' Bar Receives SetBack in Camel Jockey Case

In early June, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida against certain sheiks from the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of kidnapping and enslaving children and forcing them to ride camels (WSJ lawblog article). The case was brought under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), which gives U.S. federal courts jurisdiction to hear cases brought by anyone, including foreign nationals, for injuries “in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” For a whole discussion on the ATS, see anything written on the subject by Bill Dodge, or the Opinion Juris Discussion of the ATS and the last big SCOTUS case addressing it. The case brings up a slew of novel and interesting questions for those of us at all interested in international law, including head of state immunity, forum non conveniens, and international comity. This seems to be the plaintiffs' bar's first foray into human rights law, and not everyone was pleased with it. As Bill Dodge was quoted in a New York Time's article:

“It’s a bad thing that the class-action firms are getting into this area,” William Dodge, a law professor at Hastings Law, told the Times. “They don’t know as much about international law, and they don’t pick their battles as carefully. They’re motivated not just by a concern to promote human rights but also by money and a desire to use these kinds of suits to get a settlement.”
The UAE actually set up a whole media-ready website in response, called ""

On July 30, 2007, the judge dismissed the case for a lack of personal jurisdiction (both under Florida's and the federal long arm statute) , thus avoiding some of the trickier questions that would have otherwise arisen. Seems the Sheiks did not have many meaningful contacts with the Sunshine state and the Court did not find plaintiffs' allegations that some corporations doing business in Flordia were the alter egos of the Defendants to be very convincing. While a win for the sheiks, this does not foreclose future litigation of this sort.

I think it would have been interesting to see how the court would have handled the accusation that the children were enslaved. The Sosa decision mostly limited the causes of action under the ATS to only those three that were unequivocally intended to be enforced at the time of the ATS's adoption in 1781: violating safe conduct, infringing the rights of ambassadors, and piracy. But the majority opinion did say that it would be willing to apply the statute to other, more modern concepts:
Accordingly, we think courts should require any claim based on the present-day law of nations to rest on a norm of international character accepted by the civilized world and defined with a specificity comparable to the features of the 18th-century paradigms we have recognized.
Surely slavery would fall under this definition, wouldn't it?

So Incredibly Likely, I Can't Believe It Actually Happened!

Yesterday, Al Gore III plead guilty to possession of marijuana and a few other drugs sans prescription in Orange County (LA Times). Authorities discovered the drugs after they pulled Gore over for going about 100mph. A couple comments here.

1. If you're going to have a numeral as a suffix to your name, you should go by "Albert" and not "Al." "Albert the III" sounds like he is from a politically connected family. "Al the III" sounds like a mechanic who works in a shop where two other "Al"s work, giving rise to the need to distinguish between them numerically.

2. Albert was pulled over for speeding in his hybrid 2006 Toyota Prius. Come on you couldn't make that up. I think his dad would have been more upset if he had been caught in an SUV.