Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Repeat, THERE IS NO PARTY IN THE CASTRO On October 31


But there will be the other 364 days of they year

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kayaking is Free, But Access To Your Fun Parts = $275

If it turns out the free kayaking is more than 1/2 mile away, I am going to be pissed.

Found on Gawker.

--------------------------------------------

$275 Seeking a Recession Roommate (West Village)


Date: 2009-10-22, 3:41PM EDT
Reply to: hous-kpd5n-1433136075@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]


I'M SEEKING A MATURE, DRAMA FREE WOMAN TO SHARE MY APARTMENT WITH ME. PLEASE READ THIS AD IN ITS ENTIRETY AND ONLY RESPOND IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS UNIQUE SHARE. First, let's face the facts: The politicians tell us we're in a deep "Recession" but the truth is we're in a Depression -- and it's only going to get worse! So let's help each other during these hard financial times. That said, I have a huge 1,600 sf apartment in the exclusive West Village ("The Gold Coast"), overlooking the Hudson River and and riverside parks where one can jog, bicycle or simply walk along the river's edge for miles. Amenities include roof deck with spectacular views of NYC and the Hudson River, full-service laundry in the basement, 24 hour doorman, AC, Cable TV and high-speed internet connection. There's free kayaking about 1/2 mile from my building during the summer months. My apartment's market rent is $4,200. per month. Your share of the rent is only $275. including all utilities. We will share the apartment including the master bedroom. True, this is an unusual situation, but it's necessitated by the fact that I have a second bedroom which is presently occupied by a female friend. Would you like to share a great apartment and a very comfortable Queen-size bed with a person who is respectful and sensitive to your needs? Send me a short message and a recent picture(s) of yourself. I've included a picture of myself in the lower right corner of this ad. I believe "A picture is worth a thousand words." NO PICTURE, NO RESPONSE. Contact: scubadobedo@yahoo.com

Eight Glasses a Day Might Be Too Much

The Minnesota Supreme Court has concluded that if bong water tests positive for a controlled substance, a person in possession thereof can be prosecuted for the possession of the controlled substance itself. This is in contrast to lower courts that held that bong water was paraphernalia, punishable only as a misdemeanor.

According to the AP article:

The case involved a woman whose bong had about 2 1/2 tablespoons of liquid that tested positive for methamphetamine. A narcotics officer had testified that drug users sometimes keep bong water to drink or inject later.
Really? Drink the bong water? Eeeew. Although where does it stop? What about pipes? That would be paraphernalia, but I'm sure you could probably scrape out stuff or lick it or something. If your pipe or one-hitter has enough residue, could it too be considered the equivalent of the controlled substance?

Plus, isn't it really cold in Minnesota? What else are they going to do up there? And will they still bet their friends $20 to drink the bong water?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rest in Peace Captain Lou Albano

I remember watching him in the early days of the WWF, when I was a wee boy. He used to fight when he was younger, but I remember him as a manager, along side such early WWF giants as, well...Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and some lesser known wrestlers like the Iron Sheik, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

He used to wear these weird rubber band piercings on his face, which really didn't make any sense. Oh and then there's the Cyndi Lauper thing:

He passed away today, at the age of 76. Thanks for the memories Lou!

Ooh, just found this gem on Gawker:

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Anyway, at the End of the Day, "Whatever" Is What it Is

According to a study funded by bespectacled high school teachers conducted by the Marist poll, the word "whatever" was voted by study participants as the most irritating word in the English language. The runners-up included "it is what it is," "you know," "anyway," and "at the end of the day."

First, I don't think it's fair to pit one word against a phrase, although CBS doesn't seem to know the difference. And at least "whatever" actually connotes a feeling, albeit a dismissive one. It takes the phrase "it is what it is," five whole words to say absolutely nothing. This phrase is used a lot around my office, and it makes me grimace, because it usually means "we kind of fucked this up and now you have to deal with it," but since no one wants to take blame, it is a nice way to distance themselves from the train wreck, act as if either evolution or God made the train wreck, and then make someone else clean up the train wreck.

And I'm surprised "like" didn't make the list. Being a Californian from birth, I can say that this word often makes up 25% of conversations, especially those that take place south of Monterey.

This whole study is literally a waste of time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daily Candy Is Getting a Little Out of Control

Yes, I get Daily Candy emails. No, I rarely read them, though sometimes they will announce the soft opening of new restaurants and other interesting local events. Often, when I've looked at them they will be thinly veiled advertisments for local artists slinging "highly affordable" jewelry one $400 bracelet at a time. Given the economic enema colonic Gigli recession of the last 14 months, these ads seem even more absurd.

But I decided to take a look at one of the emails they sent me today. It involves the launch of "neck accessories." My initial smirk was somewhat mitigated by the cute picture in the email.

Oh, ok, maybe this will be an interesting way to update an old top. But unisex? I click on the link. Even Sergei the model doesn't look very happy about the $171 Mayflower doily he has around his neck.

Image from Revolve Clothing

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Week in Hypocrisy: Family Values OC Assemblyman Resigns


Michael Duvall is was a Republican Assemblyman from the conservative womb of California that is Orange County. A married man with two adult children, he has been a consistent proponent of "family values." This of course means he is staunchly anti same-sex marriage. From the OC Weekly:

In 2008, 
Duvall blasted efforts to condone gay marriage. Legislatively, he has 
proposed bills to aid the insurance industry and government contractors 
feeding off the state's massive transportation kitty.
 He has offered a law to alter the First Amendment rights of Americans by
 banning anti-war activists from putting the names of fallen soldiers on 
T-shirts with messages such as "Bush lied" on the front and "They died" on the back; he observed that the dead soldiers fought to protect freedom, and "opportunists" should not be allowed to "exploit" the sacrifices with political messages opposing war.


Such thinking impressed certain constituencies. Earlier this year, the man who never graduated from high school received "100 percent" approval scores 
by the California Republican Assembly, the state's leading conservative outfit, and the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), a fierce guardian of traditional family values.


"Assemblyman Duvall has been a consistent trooper for the conservative causes," CRI president Karen England announced in March. "For the last two years, he has voted time and time again to protect and preserve family values in California. We are grateful for his support of California
 families.'"

Turns out he meant other people's families. Recently a tape of him surfaced wherein he brags about an extramarital affair, accidentally broadcast live from his microphone before the start of a legislative debate.

Here are a few choice snippets of what he shared with his coworker:
"She wears little eye-patch underwear," said Duvall, "So, the other day she came here with her underwear, Thursday. And
 so, we had made love Wednesday--a lot! And so she'll, she's all, 'I am going 
up and down the stairs, and you're dripping out of me!' So messy!"
"And so her birthday was Monday," he said at the Wednesday, July 8 committee hearing. "I was 54 on June 14, so for a month, she was 19 years younger than 
me. I said, 'Now, you're getting old. I am going to have to trade you in.' And she goes, '[I'm] 36.' She is 18 years younger than me. And so I keep
 teasing her, and she goes, 'I know you French men. You divide your age by 
two and add seven, and if you're older than that, you dump us.'"

Full KCal9 Video
Wow. Not only is it just kind of nasty, it turns out the affair is with a lobbyist for an energy company. And, not surprisingly, Dvuall was the vice chair on the Committee on Utilities & Commerce. Coincidence? I doubt it. As one spokesman said to the OC Weekly, "He's old and fat. She's hot, blonde and about 20
 years younger. He could have never gotten a woman like that before he got
 this job.'"



Picture from OC Weekly

(Wo)man's got a point. On a funny-if-it-were-not-so-tragic note, Duvall also sat on the Assembly rules committee which handles ethics allegations of member wrongdoing.

Duvall resigned on Wednesday

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Boycotting of Obama's Speech on Education

Ok, this is a new level. I can see this from the crazies who think that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, but from Republican leadership? Socialist Indoctrination? It's the president's speech to school-age kids about staying in school for frack sake. I had to sit through this boring shit in public school and so should everyone else.

Guardian Article

Wait, are public schools socialist? Oh noes!!!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I think there was a chapter in Das Capital about this

Southwest Air to charge $10 to board early

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The early bird gets the overhead baggage space -- at least on Southwest Airlines Co.

Dallas-based Southwest said on Wednesday it started charging passengers $10 each way to board flights before general check-in starts, but after premium passengers, including those flying Business Select. (Full Article)

It pays to be the early bird. You have to pay to be the early bird. Come on man, as if lining up for Southwest flights wasn't stressful and awkward enough. I wonder if there will also be a surcharge if you want to be on a plane without unauthorized parts.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pretty Lucky

Here are some pics from the Barcelona training session this morning at Kezar stadium. Probably about as close to Messi as I will ever get.

Even in training, he is THAT good.










Thursday, July 23, 2009

SF Summer

From my bike ride this past weekend. Golden Gate Bridge was the front line in the battle between fog and sun.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CA Passes a Budget

You know that we have low expectations for our government when we get excited that we passed a budget. It sort of reminds me of that Chris Rock stand-up act bit about how some people (no, I'm not going to write that word) take credit for stuff that they are just supposed to do. Such as "I take care of my kids" or "I've never been to jail." What do you want, a cookie?

A large part of the hold up was because the Republicans categorically refused to discuss any kind of tax increase. Now, I'm not saying that taxes should be increased, necessarily, but the fact is that there are only two ways to bridge the gigantic chasm of a budget gap that we have (other than pillaging a rainy day fund, which we don't have anyway): decrease spending or increase taxes. If you refuse to even talk about tax increases, you are tackling the problem with one hand tied behind your back.

Spending should be cut, and drastically. However, most of the union's states are experiencing budget short falls. And 37 of them have increased taxes in some way, and not all of them involved the third rail of income taxes. Kansas, for example took away the tax credit for those who make films in the state, and others have raised taxes on booze and smokes. Maine extended its sales tax to car repairs, dog grooming and dry cleaning. South Dakota increased charges on laundromats.

I believe that raising taxes could screw up incentives, and could have have the opposite of intended consequences if used in the wrong circumstances (reducing demand for consumption goods). But I also think that refusing to talk about raising taxes because of an ideological aversion is not helping anyone.

But with the governator able to asked poignant questions like this, is it any wonder he has forced anyone pragmatic into a corner?




Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm not into convertibles

so I think this might be my midlife crisis activity of choice:



I saw this as part of the bicycle film festival, which is on its way to Oakland and then Portland. If it comes through your neck of the woods, I highly recommend seeing this film, Where Are You Go. At the very least, it will make you want to go for a ride around your town.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Gitmo Detainee's Habeas Petition Granted

Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge ordered the release of one Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko. The Court concluded that the government had not established that Janko was "part of" either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

(Article)

(Opinion)

I'm a bit amazed at the contiuned hard-assedness with which the government is pursuing these cases under the new administration. This guy's story is pretty amazing.

It was undisputed that, after upon his arrival in Afgahnistan, the al-Qaeda leadership suspected Janko of being a U.S. spy. After being tortured by al-Qaeda for three months, he falsely confessed that he was indeed a U.S. spy (see torture does get confessions!). The judge noted that he was not at liberty to discuss what torture methods were used due to issues of government confidentiality, but that they could be fairly characterized as "barbaric."

He was then transferred to the Sarpusa Taliban prison in Kandahar where, as the judge summaraizes, the conditions "were so terrible-if not horrific-that many prisoners died while incarcerated. Prisoners were fed next to nothing, and the prison was overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacked sufficient medical care." He was incarcerated there for 18 months, until the Taliban abandoned the prison during their retreat from the advancinig Northern Alliance forces in late 2001. He was then transferred to the custody of U.S. forces, and sent to Gitmo.

So now the disputed part. The government claimed that he had travelled to Afghanistan (Janko is a Syrian, though I'm not sure where he was before Afghanistan) "to participate in jihad" and that he admitted having stayed at a guesthouse used by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighers for five days, where he cleaned some guns, and then went to the al Farouq training camp where he was in training for 18 days before he was taken, tortured, and imprisoned for almost two years, as discussed above.

Janko admitted that he had stayed at the guesthouse and had attended the training camp. In fact, most of the government's case and evidence was based on his testiomony during his interrogations. But, Janko claimed that we was trying to get to Europe or the U.S. as a refugee, and was forced to stay in the guesthouse and training camp against his will. He said he never wanted or intended to join either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

The Court found the goverment's position "defies common sense." The Court, sub silencio, seems to assume, arguendo, that Janko did travel to Afgahnistan with the intention to join either al-Qaeda or the Taliban throughout the opinion. With an exclamation point, however, the court disagrees that, considering the short amount of time he was actually involved with either of the two groups when followed by almost 2 years of torture and incarceration, the government succeeded in showing by a preponderance of the evidce that Janko was "part of" of either group:

Here, the Government contends that petitioner Janko was "part of' al Qaeda and/or the Taliban prior to his being imprisoned and tortured, as evidenced by his travel to Afghanistan, stay at a certain Taliban guesthouse for approximately five days, and his attendance at the notorious al Parouq training camp for two-plus weeks. (Unclassified Oral Arg. Tr. 31.) The Government also contends, in essence, that the extreme treatment Janko was subjected to over a substantial period of time thereafter was not sufficient to vitiate that relationship. As such, the Government contends he was still "part of' those organizations when he was ultimately taken into custody by the U.s. forces some two years later. I disagree!
Terminating in another exclamation point, the court also found that even expressly assuming that he did travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda's or the Taliban's military ranks, "[s]urely extreme treatment of that nature evinces a total evisceration of whatever relationship might have existed!"

The Court thus granted the petition, and ordered the government "to take all necessary and proper diplomatic step" to facilitate Janko's release. This, however, might be tricky, as I've discussed before, since now the government still needs to find a country willing to take him.

Italy has already accepted a whopping three, and four Chinese members of the Uighur ethnic group were released in Bermuda. Which, I have to say, must be an interesting culture shock for them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mama Se Mama Sa Mama Coo Sa

Yay, though his career peaked many moons ago and some fairly well-substantiated rumors of pedophilia have taken the luster off of the inscriptions surrounding his likeness as a demi-god in the hallowed halls of our collective pop-consiousness, he will forever be the sounds of my childhood. His name and music will never fail to conjure images of poorly imitated walks on the moon, or one-gloved grabs of the loin.

Though some will not smile when others speak of you, and they might ask "how has he affected us?," they will never be able to question how deeply. Rest in Peace MJ. I will remember you as a P.Y.T., deserving of our T.L.C.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This is hilarious

This is also two blocks away. I want to go see him in person...er...bird.

http://frontstreetattackbird.blogspot.com/

Fotos de Argentina (y algunas de Uruguay)

Here are a few snapshots from my trip. Enjoy!

I ate a few things that looked like this:


Cemeterio de recoleta:

Velez v. Boca:

Cataratas de Iguazu:


Magritte-esque clouds outside of Almacen del Sur.

The son of the winegrower, working the new oil press:





Small town in the Andes:
Aconcagua:


Punta del Inca:


Different punta, supposedly crossed by San Martin on his way to liberate Chile:


Colonia, Uruguay:



Calle de los suspiros:





Friday, May 22, 2009

Hasta

I will be on vacation (in Argentina! Woo hoo!) for the next two weeks, so I won't be posting for a bit. Though my posts have been intermittent of late, so many of you probably won't know the difference.

This also means that I will not be here when the California Supreme Court hands down its decision in the cases involving Proposition 8 (h8) on Tuesday. I am not expecting anything good from that decision, but still. It kind of makes me sad. Then I saw this defacement of public property today on the bus I take, and I thought to myself...yeah...I wish the sign really did say that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Persistence of Gitmo

I saw a GOP talking head last night on some show say that Obama's recent decision to keep military tribunals was an implicit endorsement of the turd's war on terror. This incredibly ill-founded statement caused me great consternation: apparently enough to motivate me to break my blog silence of late. So I'd like to set a few things straight. You know, for the reasonable people out there.

One of Obama's first acts as president after his inauguration, was to announce the closure of Gitmo within one year. For those of us who have thought (and said) since its inception that Guantanamo was this country's most tragically embarrassing rejection of the rule of law in recent history, this came as welcome news.

So what to make then of what has been termed Obama's "back tracking" on this issue?

A few points.

First, even those who feel as I do cannot honestly say that Guantanamo should be shut down immediately. Others have been charged, but have not had any sort of preliminary hearing. There are also detainees (about 60 or so last count) who have been cleared of all charges, but who cannot be returned to their native countries because of likelihood of torture. This is an affirmative obligation that the United States has under international law. So in a slightly ironic way, international law is preventing the immediate closure of Gitmo. You can't just hit the "off" switch on Gitmo and walk away. The previous administration has left quite a legal limbo laden quagmire to sort through.

Many are also concerned about Obama's decision to reinstate military tribunals. This was not a total surprise since he called for a 120 days suspension of prosecution, so it was not unforeseeable that after such time, they might begin again (although they are not actually beginning again, since he announced a new 120 day suspension, pending changes to the tribunals). However, he has changed some of the more egregious rules, such as:

First, statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial. Second, the use of hearsay will be limited, so that the burden will no longer be on the party who objects to hearsay to disprove its reliability. Third, the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel. Fourth, basic protections will be provided for those who refuse to testify. And fifth, military commission judges may establish the jurisdiction of their own courts.
From White House Press Statement.
So the playing field has been leveled, to some extent (don't ask how #5 will work because I have no idea). Will this be the same as an Article III court? No. Of course not.

Much more than a democrat, I am an advocate of the rule of law. I think our rules of evidence and procedure (that are used everyday in our own criminal courts, such as the one that convicted one Timothy McVeigh) are the best tools we have to sort out the guilty from the innocent. So is it disappointing? Yes. Is it an implicit endorsement of the turd's war on terror? Hardly, and no more so than cleaning up after an oil spill is an endorsement of the oil spill.

I think some version of the existing tribunals will be necessary. Republican congressmen have made it very clear that they will oppose any changes that will mean the detainees will be housed in maximum security prisons within the United States. So this will make access to regular Article III courts somewhat difficult, given that the turd decided to put his kangaroo court on a fricking island. I guess their fear is that the acquitted detainees might be freed and walk around Main street USA.

Since that what acquitted people do.

And the Senate just rejected the money requested by the administration to shut Gitmo down.

So what to do? Here's what I think. Keep the tribunals, but import material provisions of Federal law, e.g. Federal Rules of Evidence, Criminal Procedure. No NIMBY problem, and you will now have all of the safeguards of US law. All those acquitted get to go live in Crawford Texas.

Problem solved.

Here is a much better post on all the things wrong with the tribunals that will remain wrong.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yeah, that about sums it up

So, I've been on a bit of a hiatus lately from teh internets. Work has been busy, and there is a palpable feeling in the air to establish one's usefulness at work so as to stay gainfully employed. I've fallen behind on my personal emails and just about everything else that I access through this box on my desk.

So instead of trying to catch up with all that is wrong in the world, be it Somali Pirates or this Swine Flu, I am just going to post the following picture, which I feel sort of sums up what is wrong with television politics contemporary America right now. I'll be back soon with some additional intelligent and cutting analysis of issues affecting the global community more words sooner, rather than later.


From the LA Times via Defamer

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Be Kind to Lawyers Day

Today, apparently according to someone, is National Be Kind to Lawyers Day. This kind of reminds me of the time when I asked my Grandmother why there was a day for mothers, fathers, and grandparents, but no day for kids.

"Every day is children's day," she said.

But for all you lawyers out there doing god's work (you know who you are), who are not making a kabillion dollars a year, we are all indebted. And for so many of you who are out of a job, take heart. Things will pick up.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Outside Lands Announces 2009 Lineup

With regards to the headliners, I think I would have been more excited if this were 1994.

But there are some interesting bands on there:

Calexico
Lila Downs
Dengue Fever
Thievery Corporation
Kinky
Q-Tip
Samba Da
Raphael Saadiq

I'm kind of glad there is no band that would tempt me to try and navigate the gigantic cluster fuck that was last year's Radiohead show that was, incidentally, worth the headache to experience.

Who wants to guess that even though you'd think that MUNI would have learned a lesson last year, they will do almost nothing to improve the public transportation situation to and from GG park?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Auditions for Anti Same-Sex Marriage Advert Reveal Just How Full of Crap They Are

Wow. Just Wow. Check out this post from Sfist about what the Human Rights Campaign has uncovered. I'll restructure the gist of it here though.

First, Watch the anti-gay ad:



and now you can click and watch the auditions for it! That doctor who was so upset about having to choose between her faith and her profession for a reason she doesn't mention because it DOESN'T FRAKING EXIST?* An actor! The New Jersey guy who says his church was punished for not supporting gay marriage?** An Actor!! In fact the whole thing is filled with specious inaccuracies!

And I love how they couch it as being about their "freedom." It takes some pretty twisted logic to conclude that one's freedom extends to the "freedom to decide with other like-minded people how other people should be treated under the law." That's not freedom at all. That's tyranny by the majority. Anyway, here is one part of the auditions.




* This has been determined to reference the Benitez decision, which held that a health care provider cannot refuse a patient treatment based on their sexual orientation. Hardly necessitating a decision between your faith and your profession.

** I think I've mentioned this case on here before, because the Mormons used it in their prop 8 blitz. But anyway, in New Jersey the state offers a tax exemption to private property owners who open up their land for the use of the public, provided they follow all state laws. The unincorporated community of Ocean Grove that is very religious took advantage of the program, but then refused to allow a same sex couple to have their civil union ceremony on the grounds, which runs afoul of the state anti-discrimination policy. So the state is contemplating revoking their ability to claim a tax exemption. That is hardly being fined for not supporting same sex marriage. New Jersey doesn't even have same sex marriage.

I Really Really Hope This Is Good

Otherwise I know several generations of 5 year-olds who will not be happy.



The Arcade Fire Song is a nice backdrop, so you're off to a good start Spike!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

In Other Legal News, Iowa Supreme Court Gives Ok to Same Sex Marriage

Yes, really. I wonder if the Prop 8 people have any money left to pour into an amendment to Iowa's constitution. How many courts and legal scholars (and bloggers!) have to weigh in before we all realize that banning same sex marriage violates the Equal Protection clause. It won't ruin your schools, it won't teach anyone to be gay (whatever that means), and it doesn't mean you have to marry someone of your own sex. It only extends the same benefit (ONLY the rights wielded by the state, no religious significance is given or required. Your religion can still discriminate if it wants to.) we all enjoy to the gay community. That's it. Come on people.

UPDATE:

Apparently it is much more difficult to amend the Iowa Constitution than ours, and it requires going through the legislature first. Rich out-of-state social conservatives might be SOL. I might have to get a map and actually find this state.

Right to Habeas Extends into Afghanistan

It seems ages since Boumediene v. Bush was handed down, holding that the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay had a right to petition for habeas corpus in federal civilian courts. But yesterday, the decision was the basis for a significant ripple in federal jurisprudence. Yesterday, a federal judge determined that, under the rationale used in Boumediene, detainees that are being held at Bagram Afghanistan also have a right to petition for the great writ.

Well, not everybody. It turns out that Bagram has become a sort of terrorist holding tank for prisoners picked up all over the region, not just in Afghanistan. The judge ruled that the writ extends to prisoners who are NOT Afgahn nationals. So the decision concluded that three of the four (two Yemenis and a Tunisian) have a right to file habeas petitions, but due to possible friction with the host country, the Afghan does not.

NYT Article

Decision

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pointy Hat-ed Pontiff Ribbed (or Unribbed Perhaps) by Facebook

According to the Telegraph, a few Italians have started a growing facebook campaign to inundate the Vatican with prophylactics. The campaign was started in response to comments the Pope made about how condoms aggravate the spread of HIV. Organizers claim that 60,000 have signed up so far. If you are one of the participants, might I recommend sending the condoms with the reservoir tip as they actualy kind of look of look like the aforementioned pointy hat.

Kidding aside, this policy is just plain deadly. I read that the Pope made these or similar comments on a recent trip to Africa. As Africa has about 22.5 million people currently infected with HIV and 20 million have already died from it, his suggestions that the disease could be defeated through chastity and abstinence is tantamount to homicide in my book. Africa has enough indigenous and cultural problems dealing with the disease with out adding any more to it. Harvard researchers last year estimated that the approach of South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki had led to 330,000 needless deaths. Mbeki, you may remember, said that there was not enough evidence to prove that HIV caused AIDS. This lead to bad policies such as not providing antiretroviral drugs to those already infected.

So Mr. Pope, if you are listening, I ask you, which is the greater evil?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speaking of Weirdness

I think I now know why both clowns and Fergie scare me, and why I was such a strange little kid. Look at what I used to watch!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Joaquin Phoenix's New-Found Weridness

I caught part of his interview on David Letterman last month, and now I saw this headline about him getting into an altercation with a heckler at one of his hip-hop performances.

Yeah, hip-hop. Is he on tour or something? If so, has anyone out there actually been or bought a ticket?

I'm guessing this is one big Andy Kaufman-esque thing. It does sort of sound that way, and I kind of hope it is. I think Hollywood and the media (especially all the gossip rags) need a good shaking up again.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Freestyle

I am saddened that I had not seen this before. If you want to stop laughing, check out the violence at the end and the racist youtube comments that follow the link.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

California Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Proposition H8

Well, they're off, in theory, as argument was supposed to begin at 9 a. m. PST. I have been unable to access the sites that are supposed to live stream the arguments. Like this one. But they are supposed to last 3 hours, so I guess I can just try again in a bit.

The LA Times reported that the demonstrations in front of the court were "slow to start," but I don't think that a "couple of hundred" people who were there an hour before the hearing even started is really a "slow" start when it comes to demonstrating in front of court houses.

However you feel about the issue, there are some interesting questions before the court. Such as, is this a "revision" of the constitution rather than an "amendment" because prop 8 "revised" the previously interpreted breadth of the Equal Protection clause? Or is it an amendment since it only revised an interpretation of the EPC, rather than the EPC itself?

I heard that the Supreme Court has rejected such challenges in the past, but I'm not sure if any of them dealt with the EPC which, I think everyone would acknowledge, is in a more fundamental and separate category from the rest of the (enormous) California Constitution.

Even if the court does uphold the proposition, what of the people already married? Should it be retroactive?

Tough questions. I guess we'll know in 90 days or less.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Detour to Africa Via Den Haag

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Interestingly, and some would say incomprehensibly shamefully, the warrant does not include the charge of genocide.

Apparently the PTC did not even think they could establish the low standard of "resonable grounds" necessary to include the charge of genocide in the warrant. I have to imagine that perhaps this was ultimately a political decision aimed at minimizing the reaction in Khartoum. Either way, I have to share in other commentators' dismay.

But there might be other factos at work too. I imagine that establishing Bashir's genocidal "intent" might be hard to establish. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that the ICC can only consider conduct that occurred after the entry into force of the Rome Statute in 2002, so Bashir's activities during the pre-Darfur civil war with the SPLA in Southern Sudan during the mid-to-late nineties and early naughts would not be able to be considered. So I think the lead prosecutor's case will have to be based on mostly the conduct in Darfur.

He has been charged with:

  • five counts of crimes against humanity: murder – article 7(1)(a); extermination – article 7(1)(b); forcible transfer – article 7(1)(d);
    torture – article 7(1)(f); and rape – article 7(1)(g);
  • two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities – article 8(2)(e)(i); and pillaging – article 8(2)(e)(v).
The reaction in Khartoum, however, has been quick. Protests were almost instantaneously started and the Sudanese seem to have revoked the licenses of several NGO aid organizations that operate in the country. Apparently this is Bashir's way of punishing the West by further punishing his own people.

Now at the risk of sounding clinical, this is going to be an interesting experiment, as it will be testing ground for the ICC in a new area. It will be a new chapter in the ongoing argument between those who think that impunity cannot be tolerated and that those who are reasonably believed to have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity should be tried in the Hague if the local country is unwilling or unable to do so, and those who are not sure if the meddling of the international community will help, and might only make wounds fester.

For further information about the long civil war in Sudan, the one that preceded Darfur, I highly recommend a book by David Eggers entitled "What is the What."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Locker Room Etiquette

I'm about as "straight but not narrow" as they come, but something about my gym makes me a little uncomfortable. Specifically, how...um...well how gay it can be.

Now I don't mean that I'm bothered by the LGBT community going to my gym. Far from it. However, on any given day, you can find m4m missed connections from the men's locker room. Here are a few examples.

saw you working out at [gym]. You were wearing a purple t-shirt and Stanford shorts. Looks like you're tan from vacation. I checked you out in the locker room but you were talking to some of your buds. I gotta know who you are - does anybody else know? I was the in-shape white guy, five eleven 180lbs muscle tats on right arm, that checked you out several times. Let's bone bud - I bet you're a HOT TOP... I saw your thick dick in the showers!
Saw you today working out and then in the locker room. You are very cute. We talked for a minute but I did not want to be too forward. I would love to meet you outside of the gym. I think it was around 4:30 or 5
Ok this is SO not fair, heteros don't get a sneak peak at the goods! Although maybe being objectified by other men might be a good lesson for some of us so that we can empathize with how women feel most of the time.

Monday, March 02, 2009

We're All F*cked But at Least It Won't Be on the Internet Anymore

Not to be the boy who cried wolf or chicken little, but if you don't find this scary enough, maybe this will cause you to panic. I mean, if internet porn can't make it in today's economic climate, I don't like the chances for the rest of us.



*I just went to NYC a few weeks ago and finally saw Avenue Q. Hilarious.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Banana^2 Slug

My last post had too many words. This is kinda icky looking, but I couldn't just walk by and let this slug's obvious sense of humor go unnoticed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Italian City Unveils Plan To Bail Out Struggling Carb Industry

According to Yahoo, Lucca, a city in the heart of Tuscany, has passed a city-wide measure that bans "ethnic" eateries within city limits. Apparently feeling threatened by kebab and curries, the center right city council's action was applauded by Italy's agricultural minister, who is, of course, a member of Italy's Lega Nord, which is known for its xenephobic leaning.

This article calls the Lega Nord "anti-immigrant," but this is a bit of a misnomer really, because it gives the impression that it is anti-"things foreign to Italy." The Lega Nord (per l'Indipendenza della Padania, which is the full name) is actually a party consisting of those who think that certain regions of northern/central Italy should either have more autonomy(according to the more mainstream view now dominant) or should secede altogether (no longer the official view, though some extremists would still claim this I imagine).

So they are equally anti-"other parts of Italy too," though to a predictable lesser extent. And this is an interesting phenomenon in Italy.

Years ago, I wrote a paper on racism in Belgium and Italy. Why those countries you ask? Well, at the time (1998-99) there was a lot of discussion of race relations in some of Europe's larger countries, such as Germany (obvi) and France, but there wasn't much on the smaller countries. And I thought Belgium and Italy would be interesting (I did not know at the time that I would eventually be living in Belgium about 2 years alter) because of their respective histories of not being a unified country. I don't actually remember much about what I wrote, but the studies I had to read were actually quite interesting.

With regard to Italy, the studies spoke of "L'exception italienne;" that is, despite the growing number of immigrants, Italy had not responded as many other countries had; either through sanctioned quotas or a growing anti-immigrant sentiment among the natives (though this had changed over the years). One of the reasons cited for this exception was that Italy itself has always been a patchwork of distinct regions, and thus Italians were used to dealing with those they saw as different from themselves. Italy, as we all know from our 6th grade text books began as a series of city-states. But even Italy as we now know it did not exist as a modern nation state until 1870. To this day, regional dialects and identities persist, though to a much lesser extent (Although if you watch AC Milan play AS Roma, the north/south distinction will become VERY clear).

My favorite study consisted of a survey that asked Sicilians what degree of trust they had for certain other groups, including the relatively new immigrants from the Maghreb. The result was priceless. According to the study, Sicilians trusted North Africans a bit more than they trusted other Sicilians and A LOT more than Italians from other regions.

So the Italian Exception isn't so much that Italians are really accepting so much as they are much more local and perhaps open-minded in their point of reference for prejudice.

Now if add to this mixture the pride most Italians have for their food, regionally and nationally, this city measure makes sense. I once mentioned to an Italian friend how the popular conception of Italian food wasn't really "Italian" since tomato sauce couldn't exist until tomatoes were discovered in the New World and that pasta was most certainly not indigenous to Italy and was probably imported from the Levant. From her reaction you would have thought I had spat on the grave of her grandmother. So despite the admonition from Vittorio Castellani that there is"'no dish on the face of the earth' that is not derived from a mélange of different ingredients and a fusion of culinary styles," it looks as if culinary protectionism has emerged under the Tuscan Sun.

But of course, we just passed a massive stimulus plan that has some "Buy American" clauses in it, so I guess we can't really talk.

Wow. Pasta sounds really good right now. Maybe I should go to Lucca.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Return to Africa II


I was originally going to comment on the mortgage/foreclosure plan and the moral hazard it creates, but I just don't have the time or energy to get into it after a long week. Although as a renter who could not afford property in the Bay Area, I am a bit angry that others who bit off more than they could chew get to be bailed out. Why not bail me and my student loans out?

But that would be about me.

So instead, I just want to update my previous post on the situation in Somalia, which still does not garner any media attention. I can't understand why, considering that this is a lawless area full of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose the sharia and pirates who threaten international trade. I mean, what else needs to happen before we start paying attention?!?!

So a new leader has been selected, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a moderate Islamist cleric, that was a compromise between the transition government and the Islamic opposition. Hopefully they will be able to bring some sort of central leadership the area.

Although it appears that more AU troops might be need to keep the peace in the mean time. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold seems to be the only U.S. politician aware of the situation, as he wrote Obama a letter dated February 13, urging the new US president to break with predecessor George W. Bush's approach. He actually seems to have several good ideas.

"The previous administration maintained a disjointed and short-sighted approach toward Somalia that was counterproductive and led to increased anti-Americanism in the region," the Wisconsin lawmaker charged.

"As a result, the situation in Somalia has deteriorated, undermining our national security goals, including counterterrorism," the senator, who visited Somalia in December and met with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Full AFP Article. Image also from AFP.

Well-put, Russ.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You have gone TOO FAR

Go Fug Yourself, I enjoy your snapshots of celebs and witty and, dare I say, deliciously irreverent commentary. But you have now maligned number 1 on my "List."* And what's even worse? It's not really funny. You use a play on words that is a luke warm version of what made me giggle in high school when somebody wrote down and made me say "Sofa King We Todd Did." You are on notice ladies!

*This of course refers to the "The List" of celebrities you are allowed to have sex with and it doesn't count as cheating with your partner.**

**No I dont' really believe that and I only really have one person on my list, but people seem to know what I'm talking about when I mention this, so I'm sticking with "The List."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Darwin Day Eve!

Tomorrow is Darwin's 200th birthday, and celebrations are expected worldwide. Not bad for a guy who boarded a little ship called the HMS Beagle mostly to avoid his studies to become an Anglican Parson (much to his father's dismay). This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the theory of evolution.

Interestingly, as the Economist points out, Americans are still not that convinced. According to the publication, "[i]n 2008 14% of people polled by Gallup agreed that “man evolved over millions of years”, up from 9% in 1982. " While that is "up," that seems to be a remarkably low number. Although considering that there continue to be attempts to replace evolution as the primary scientific explanation for "how" we are here (as opposed to the "why" which I think gets conflated sometimes), perhaps this makes sense.

In June of last year, Louisiana became the first state to pass what has become known as an "academic freedom" law. In the past, fights over evolution took place at the local school board level, but academic freedom proponents specifically target state legislatures.

Such laws back away from outright calls for alternative theories to evolution, electing instead to legislate support for teachers who discuss the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of issues such as evolution in the name of protecting the freedom of speech of instructors and students alike.

Whole article from the Christian Science Monitor.

This recent not-so-subtle attempt by the not-so-subtle creationists to try and insert a watered down version of something other than evolution (since their forays into intelligent design didn't go so well) highlights the problem. Science is, by definition, able to be proven false, i.e. it is has falsifiability. Not that it it is false, but only that, by definition, a scientific theory can be proven false. Karl Popper argues, convincingly, I think, that this is what separates science from pseudo-science.

Religion, whether it be Christian, Hindu, Islam or other, lacks falsifiability because we cannot by experiment or observation disprove that God created Adam and Eve, or Adam and Hawwa, or that Brahma created all life at the same time. Thus, it is not "science."

Evolution, as a scientific theory, however, is falsifiable as one observation (though I don't know what it would look like, maybe a mermaid) could bring the whole theory down. In fact, to this day, the theory of evolution continues to...well...evolve based on observation and experimentation. And some initial theories that would fall under the umbrella of "evolution" have been proven false (I can't find any specific examples, but I think some of Darwin's initial theories about sloths and birds on South American turned out to be false, so he had to later revise them to fit the data). That's what makes it "science" and thus proper for the class room.

This distinction is obviously not understood by these lawmakers who want teachers to discuss the "'scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses' of issues such as evolution." The strengths and weaknesses of the theory are part of the theory itself. Evolution could be proven false. It just hasn't happened yet, after 150 years research and academia.

So in honor of Charlie getting on that boat and taking a pretty remarkable trip around the world, why don't we concentrate on making some good laws that don't involve thinly veiled attempts to put your religion into the classroom? Just one day?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

California Supreme Court To Hear Oral Argument on Prop 8 Challenge

The Supreme Court has announced that an oral argument will be held in the Prop. 8 cases on Thursday, March 5, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. That is a long time. Still, I'm not sure how they're going to decide who will get to argue since about a kabillion amicus briefs have been filed. I guess the fact that they are going to have oral argument should give some hope to the petitioners (as opposed to just deciding it on the [ample] papers). Should be interesting.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Psycho Patrol?


I have now seen this car parked twice in my neighborhood. Two questions:

1) Is this for real? I mean, it looks like a real cop car of some sort, but you would think that the gov't would come up with something a little bit more technical sounding (not to mention politically correct) than "Psycho Patrol."

2) Are they looking for me?

UPDATE:

Is it this guy?

SAN JOSE, Calif., July 17 (UPI) -- An official-looking car that once belonged to the Oregon State Police is roaming San Jose, Calif., with the words "Psycho Patrol" printed on its side.

Except for the wording, the car is so authentic that when it pulls up behind other vehicles the drivers think they are about to get a ticket, the San Jose (Ca.) Mercy-News reports.

Danny Kirby, 21, bought the vehicle on eBay four years ago from a company that had purchased it from Oregon state police for use in a movie filmed in Portland

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Detour to Africa

Although I know these kinds of posts are the least popular on here, I feel this topic is just not getting enough attention.

In the last few weeks some big events have taken place in Somalia. Ethiopian troops, really the only reason the transitional government was able to hold onto any semblance of "power" at all, have withdrawn. The president of the transitional government has also resigned, and his successor has not been named by paliament. This leaves an incredibly large vacuum in this desperate African nation, not only in the transitional government itself, but in the country as a whole. Already the previously expulsed Islamic fighers have retaken the country, and the areas they don't control are ruled by warlords. According to this article:

The government, with its 10,000 strong army and 3,500 African Union AMISOM peacekeepers, controls little more than a few blocks in the capital, Mogadishu. The election is being held in Djibouti because even the provisional seat of parliament in Baidoa fell to Islamists several days ago.

The fact that the parliament can't even sit in its own city is pretty telling.

We only hear about Somalia primarily when the pirates sitting off of the coast of the Horn of Africa board a large foreign ship of some sort. And, of course, piracy is no laughing matter. The piracy off of the coast of Somalia, however, is the symptom of a much larger disease. Some order needs to be established in this country and soon, otherwise Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be fond memories compared to the crisis that emerges there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration

After listening to the talking heads this morning wax poetic about how Obama and Bush had eaten sponge cake together on a replica set of Lincoln's china, I was not sure if I could bear much more of the symbolism and hoopla. But then Obama spoke, and again, I was taken aback at just how articulate he is, and how he is able to inspire. I particularly liked this part.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
I could not think of a more fitting "good bye" to W. Good riddance. And isn't it wonderful that we now have a president who is so well-spoken that he out-did the poet?!?!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bart Officer Pleads "Not Guilty"

The Bart officer who has been charged with murder for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant plead "not guilty" to the charge yesterday in Alameda Superior Court. His attorney, Christopher Miller, stated that he plans on moving for a reduction of bail.

No real surprise. But I did want to make a few points, somewhat in response to a lot of what I've heard in the media.

1. My previous post about the propriety of the charges against Johannes Mehserle, I was in no way indicating that I thought he was actually guilty of murder, or any other crime. I was only commenting on the DA's decision to charge him with murder, based on the publicly available information. I think it was a reasonable, if somewhat aggressive charge. This doesn't mean they won't change their minds later once further information is discovered, or the Mehserle begins to mount his defense. I think if the defense can bring up the chaos that preceded the now infamous video, to show the stress of the situation, and how at the time perhaps the situation was not as calm and under control as it might seem from a 1 minute film on youtube.

2. Getting a lawyer and not making any public statements should not be held against Mehserle. This is what any sane person should do if confronted with a charge like this. Even if you are innocent, the best way to stay that way is to get a good lawyer, rather than depend on the mercy of the DA in an adversarial system that will, in all likelihood, not be forthcoming.

3. Also, a correction. Contrary to initial media reports, it appears that Grant was "restrained" but not handcuffed at the time he was shot. The fact that Grant could have reached for something, I think, might change the dynamic of this case.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BART Officer Charged With Murder

On New Year's Eve (rather early in the morning on New Year's Day) in Oakland's Fruitvale station, a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officer shot and killed a 22 year-old man who had allegedly been involved in a brawl on one of the trains. At the time of the shooting, it appeared that the victim, Oscar Grant, was already handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.

The incident was caught on many a cell phone.

Since then, the BART officer has resigned, a protest turned violent in Oakland, and the BART officer, one Johannes Mehserle, has turned himself in.

Today, the Alameda District Attorney announced that they will charge Mehserle with murder.

I was a bit surprised at first, as that seemed more severe than I guess I was expecting. But, if you think about it, it's not that far fetched. If you watch the video, he seemingly quite calmly pulls out a gun (and as an officer, he has been trained on what those do and how shooting someone in the back will often be fatal) and shoots the guy lying prostrate on the ground in handcuffs. While I think "premeditation" might be hard to establish for first-degree murder (though not impossible), I think establishing malice aforethought would not be that difficult.

I had initially thought that voluntary manslaughter would probably be the extent of the charge (as a "heat of passion" kind of crime), but as I watched the video again, I think I see the DA's reasoning. While he might have been initially "provoked," he 1) is a BART officer on the beat, so confrontations are really a part of his job, and 2) the situation looked pretty calm at the time of the shooting. All of those who were allegedly involved in the altercation on the train were in handcuffs and on the ground. I think it would be hard to show that he was any longer in the heat of passion.

Although this post, like the hundreds of others like it, will definitely be fodder for a motion for change of venue based on Mehserle not being able to get a fair trial in the Bay Area given all of the news coverage.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hot and Bothered


Maybe it's because I just read the Economist's report "Troubled Waters" on how we've screwed up the world's oceans, but I am having a really hard time enjoying California's current heat wave. Seventy-four degrees in SF in January? That's warmer than it is here in the Summer on most days.

A lack of water not only screws up skiing in Tahoe, but it also does not bode well for wildfires. Especially considering that Schwarzenegger's proposed budget rests on the assumption that the state will spend half of what it did last year on fighting fires. If this keeps up, this won't be a likely scenario at all.

Image: (Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sarko To Scrap Defining Characteristic of French Civil Law Tradition

In the French judicial system, magistrate judges ("judges d'instruction") are often the ones tasked with leading criminal investigations, with counsel for the parties playing a much more passive role. Critics have suggested that this essentially does away with any hope of a presumption of innocence and that this inevitably leads to an abuse of power. Proponents suggest that this method is much better because it allows an independent judge to look at the facts, rather than letting a beauty contest between two arguing attorneys (who may or may not get the law right) decide the outcome.

But after a few egregious cases where the investigating judge did not do such a hot job, Sarko thinks that it is time to have an adversarial process.

Unsurprisingly, French lawyers and judges protested the suggested reform.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Carnie Sidewalk Graffiti

in front of my old apartment. Not sure if this was a neighbor intimating that I was immortal, or if it had something to do with the circus school down the street.



You should hum "taps" when you watch this

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

If You Can't Appreciate Irony

then don't bother reading this article, penned by former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton (who was never confirmed by the Senate) and John Yoo (he who penned the infamous torture memos that were based on his opinion that in times of war, the executive branch is not bound by normal separation of powers limitations or international law).

In this article, they both call for the restoration of the Senate's Treaty Power.

Yes. Seriously.

It is consistent at least in the sense that they see no benefit to be gained from international law at all. But now they are worried that the executive will enter into international agreements without congressional authorization, rather than flout international law, as with questionable interrogation techniques and Guantanamo Bay.

They seem to gloss over the fact that one treaty that was signed by the president and ratified by the Senate was the Geneva Conventions; the very set of treaties that John Yoo advocated the president did not have to follow and that he could authorize alternative interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and elsewhere in contravention of those treaties.