Saturday, August 2, 2008

Neocon Central


Above: This is no way to start your day.


I am terrified to walk the streets around the building where I work.

At any minute, I may be invaded in the name of DEMOCRACY.

I knew that working in downtown Washington D.C. would probably mean I'd see political figures walking around, but I wasn't prepared for this: in the last two days, I have been innocently walking down the street, only to look up and find myself being stared down by the dark heart of neoconservatism.

It started on Thursday. Swamped at work, I'd taken the Metro in early so that I could be at the office by 8. Understandably, I was dead tired, as 8 a.m. is a time when no decent person should be awake. Or, for that matter, running into any of the architects of the Iraq War.

As soon as I stepped out of my Metro station (Farragut North, on the Red Line) and turned right to head for my office, I see a fit older guy who looks very familiar walking right towards me. He's by himself, and his jacket is off (it's fucking hot here these days). As he walks right past me, we make eye contact, and that's when I finally recognize him: former two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (remember, he held the post under President Ford, too).


Left: Rumsfeld brings sexy back.

I was flabbergasted. I thought about saying something, but he was gone before I could yell "Yeah dude, really great call on trying to run a war with an undermanned, undersupplied fighting force, and then not planning at all for the aftermath of said war, and also for not paying the attention that you needed to to the conflict in Afghanistan. You're a shitty administrator, and your former Presidential aspirations were pathetic and laughable!" So that kind of sucked. Also, it wound up being a shitty day at work, because honestly, how could a day that starts with Rumsfeld end well? I'm just glad I got through it without being put at the bottom of a naked pyramid.

I'm not sure what he was doing around there, but he must have been attending some event at the Mayflower Hotel, which is directly behind my building. The Mayflower Hotel is a popular hotspot for political events; a while back, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a hotly-publicized powwow there after she conceded the nomination to him. There were lots of women with pink signs outside. Also, the Mayflower Hotel is where Elliot Spitzer used to have sex with his really, really expensive prostitute. The place was crawling with Secret Service all week.

But my adventures in neoconservatism weren't over for the week. (You know you're having a bad week when Rumsfeld isn't even the worst thing that happens to you.) Yesterday, after another shitty day at work (funny how when you do election-related work, your bosses just sort of go apeshit when the election gets to be 90 days away; all of a sudden they want all us attorneys filling in all sorts of absurd spreadsheets so they can track what we do), I took off around 6. I had the choice to go home, or to head to my bank so that I could deposit a reimbursement check for $14.12. Since I now live in abject poverty, I opted to go deposit my check. As I headed for the bank, I stopped at the curb, waiting for the light to change so that I could cross Connecticut Avenue. And who suddenly pulls up next to me but the Man with the Moustache, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, wearing his characteristic look of shaggy-haired rage?


Left: John Bolton demonstrates what he would do to the United Nations if the United Nations had a neck.

We stood next to each other for a good thirty seconds, and, again, I wanted to say something, but the man was obviously seething (he's probably still fuming at the fact that we are currently in diplomatic negotiations with Iran instead of blowing up the U.N.), and I feared that if I said anything, he'd go into a berserker rage and cut me to shreds with his adamantium claws. I said nothing, and eventually we crossed Connecticut Avenue together, him probably thinking "This godless liberal probably can't wait to say something about my filthy, unhygienic moustache," and me praying really hard that this wasn't the moment that God decided to smite Bolton with some holy lightning; I don't want to be collateral damage to the surgical strike on Bolton, no matter how reprehensible the man is.

We eventually parted ways, and I deposited my laughable little check, and then I headed to the Metro, and managed not to run into Paul Wolfowitz the entire way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Congress is Awesome




That's what it boils down to.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Dark Side of Florida


Above: Something is rotten in the state of Florida.


So sometimes being a civil rights attorney is not all that fun. Sometimes you have to do some grunt work. Me, I've spent the week plugging numbers into a huge spreadsheet. Actually, that's not true. I spent the week making sure an intern plugged those numbers into the spreadsheet. We don't pay her.

Still, the work is not always sexy. (By the way, as an attorney that has seen many a sexual harassment case, it is my advice that you do not refer to your work--or to anything or anyone in your office environment--as "sexy." You should draw the line at saying that your work "looks very nice today.") But even the drudgery can sometimes turn up something interesting. And yesterday it did.

In the law, rarely does anyone come to you with a smoking gun. You'll rarely find some memo from a Secretary of State saying "And for the month of July, I'd really like a progress report on how we're going to get all the black people off the voter rolls by November. Remember, people, we're only 124 days out! Let's get McCain elected here!" The way you find out the dirty stuff that's happening is by poring over thousands of documents in the hope that someone somewhere put something down on paper that leads us to something juicy. And as we were going through three boxes of call logs from the Broward County Board of Elections in Florida, we certainly found something juicy:

Elections in Broward County are being supervised by evil Jedis.

Yes, that's right. If you go vote in Broward County in the fall, your precinct table may well be manned by a Sith Lord, a disciple of the power of the Dark Side of the Force. I have unearthed a call log that reveals that during the 2008 primaries, a certain "Darth Peterson" called County headquarters to run an address check on a Broward County voter.

This has huge legal ramifications. Supreme Court followers will surely recall that that august body has previously ruled that the mere presence of Sith lords at polling places constitutes prima facie evidence of voter suppression efforts. See Organa vs. Palpatine, 456 U.S. 1657 (1999) ("Nothing has quite so efficacious a detrimental effect on the exercise of the franchise than the ominously pregnant hum of a lightsaber."). Now, with the Supreme Court's new right-leaning composition, legal experts are predicting that the Court is itching to overturn that rule.

"Scalia was in the minority in Organa, as you'll recall," said Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, "and I'm certain that he wants a second bite at that apple. And you know that Alito is very much to the right of former Justice O'Connor on this one. Back in 1993, when he was still on the Third Circuit, he ruled that Imperial Stormtroopers had Eleventh Amendment immunity from civil damages awards in Bivens actions for excessive force. He even went so far as to add dicta to the effect that that outcome would remain the same 'no matter how many Bothans died in bringing the Court that information.'"


Left: A 2004 photo of Broward County poll workers. We assume that that's Darth Peterson on the far right.


Preliminary investigation into reports of this Darth Peterson have yielded troubling results. The Establishment Clause ramifications of Peterson's repeated "I find your lack of faith disturbing" comments alone make this Constitutionally problematic, and reports that Peterson was Force-choking voters pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton require immediate attention.

Florida: if it's not one thing, it's something else.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supreme Court Roundup


The Supreme Court is taking no prisoners these days, handing down rulings left and right that are sure to piss someone off.

A month ago, the upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's requirement that voters show government-issued ID when they go vote, pretty much relying entirely on the fact that, back in "Gangs of New York"-era New York, machine politicians paid people to vote multiple times. Never mind that this type of voter fraud seems to be non-existent today, or that the law results in travesties like busloads of nuns being turned away (by other nuns!) at the polls because most nuns don't get driver's licenses. I think that it is safe to say that if you just issued a ruling and it is turning nun against nun, you fucked that ruling up.

A few weeks ago, they ruled that the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay could appeal their detention in federal courts through the right of habeas corpus, which Congress and the President had done away with via the Military Commissions Act, basically reminding those two branches that, hey, guess what, you can't just, you know, suspend the law and shit. This pissed off people who think this is going to mean that a bunch of terrorists are going to be set free to blow us all up (Justice Antonin Scalia falls squarely into this camp. The believing they'll blow us up camp, not the actual blowing us up camp. To my knowledge. He is an angry jurist.) It also "pissed off" John McCain, who probably secretly agreed with the decision (one would have to think that a former prisoner would have a soft spot in his heart for judicial review, which was not available to him, as the U.S. has yet to open up a District Court in Hanoi), but figured it would be politically expedient to decry it.

They've kept the ball rolling this week. In a stunning double blow to all Marine Wildlife-Americans, the Court knocked back the punitive damages that Exxon got smacked with for the Valdez debacle from $5 billion to $500 million, and also decided to take up a case from the Ninth Circuit in California (read: it accepted the case so that it can overturn the decision some time next year) which will result in the Navy being able ignore the Coastal Zone Management Act so that it can conduct all sorts of sonar exercises that will cause "behavioral disruptions" and hearing loss to whales and dolphins. So basically, dousing all sorts of wildlife in raw petroleum is now cheaper than ever, and we'll be driving whales and dolphins deaf and crazy so we can be ready for when those terrorists attack us with their terrorist submarines! Who cares, you can't hear anything underwater anyway, right? So who cares if whales and dolphins are deaf? You know who was deaf? Fucking Beethoven, man.

Michael Chertoff also got a free pass to ignore environmental regulations when the Supreme Court declined to take a case where the lower courts let Homeland Security waive environmental regulations so that it could build its awesome border fence (built to keep Lou Dobbs's night terrors at bay) without worrying about whether it cuts rivers in half, or how many folks' properties it runs through. But it's all good, because as the Cold War taught us, big-ass walls work!

Also disappointed by recent rulings were vengeful, raped babies, who were very upset that the Supreme Court's liberals said it was unconstitutional to execute someone for raping a baby. Both presidential candidates came out against the decision, because, I mean, how can you be running for president and be for baby raping? Baby raping polls very, very badly.

Also, it is very likely that today or tomorrow, Justice Scalia will take a minute to inform us, while striking down D.C.'s gun control statute, that we need all the guns we can get in order to be safe from the Redcoats. I'm calling it right now.

Update: About 10 minutes after I posted this, Scalia did actually come down from the mountain armed with an opinion opining that we do indeed have substantial Constitutionally-protected rights to bear arms.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My New Job is Strange


Not only because it's staffed by people who are really, really, really, REALLY into racial justice (I've been forced to put up a very ugly racial justice-themed calendar in my office--nothing like a new picture of some random march or rally every month to really help the time fly by), but mostly because of that thing you see in the picture, which is right outside my office, which, by the way, is so far from a window that I have to pass by about 6 other offices just to be able to see the door of an office from which you can see a window. They call my enchanted corner "the South Side," which in most cities seems to be code for "the ghetto."

In any case, thing in the picture above turns out to be a very sophisticated mousetrap. Since we are a racial justice organization and therefore love everyone and everything, it was at some point decided that mice should not die horrible deaths at our hands. Therefore, the traditional spring traps you see in cartoons were out of the question, and the decidedly horrible glue traps that force you to affirmatively kill the mouse yourself were also ruled out.

So they went out somewhere and bought that thing, which apparently works as follows: the little box is somehow suffused with mouse pheromones, which lures mice into the box, after which they can't escape. So basically, this thing lures mice in there by reeking of mousesex, and then the mouse gets in there and can't get out, all the while trapped by itself, with no opposable thumbs or appropriate reading materials, in a chamber full of sex hormones that will drive it crazy until somebody sees him and releases him into, presumably, the wilderness that is downtown D.C.

We haven't caught any mice since I've been here, but I can assure you that when we do, I'm not getting anywhere near the releasing of the sex-crazed rodent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Emigrante!

Sometimes you need to make a change.

While life here at the Hacienda is placid and idyllic, and interrupted only by my monthly fights with various telecommunications companies, it became clear that it was time for Don Paco to give up the life of luxury and plunge back into the thick of things. That being the case, I hereby announce the bittersweet news that I will be leaving these fair shores to go over the ocean to Washington, D.C., where I have accepted a job doing voter rights work. That’s right, Don Paco may soon be suing an election official in a state near you!

The job doesn’t pay tremendously well, but do you remember Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State in 2000? Didn’t you ever wish you could have sued her? I may well get the pleasure of suing whoever the new Katherine Harris is, which is compensation in and of itself.

But Don Paco, you may ask, what does this mean for your sporadically-updated and mildly amusing website? Never fear, for it shall live on. I make the move this week, and many things—including my computer—will require shipping, and it may take a while to get settled in. So during the next few weeks, there will be little to no action here. Then I will hopefully do a slight site redesign and get back to cranking out new updates for the three of you that read this.

I am leaving my faithful dogservant Santiago in charge of the Hacienda, which he is not too thrilled about, an opinion he has taken to expressing by defecating on hard-to-reach carpeted areas. I would threaten him with a sacking, but he has the most seniority of all the staff, and I would not want to antagonize the union. And really, he shits because he cares, so it’s really the thought that counts. Plus the last few times I haven't had to be the one to clean it up.

And so for the moment I leave you with this picture of the campaign headquarters of San Juan Mayor Jorge "El Gran Gansini" Santini, who for some reason seems to be trying to get re-elected by... looking like he's ready to come over and give you a good fucking? Is the man fixing his tie or fixing to give it to you Santini-style? You be the judge, but I just want to say that when I look at that poster, I immediately experience an irrational fear of being impregnated. Also, thank the Lord that Rudy Giuliani didn't think of this first.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood



Urban decay is a terrible thing. Hard economic times have hit Puerto Rico, and you can see the signs of it everywhere. The street where the Hacienda is located is no exception. A few blocks from the Hacienda’s palatial grounds, there is a house that has been abandoned for some time. The likely scenario is that the owner is asking too much for it given the repairs it needs (the houses on this street being of a “classic” vintage). Perhaps it is tied up in an inheritance dispute, which would bode ill, given that the complexity of the estate provisions of Puerto Rico Civil Code and the lumbering inadequacy of our local courts would give rise to the inference that the property dispute would most likely be resolved at around the same time that we settle our political status questions. In either case, the fact remains that there is an abandoned house on our street, and now the wrong element has moved in.

You see them out in the yard in the afternoon, just lazing about, not working, flaunting their grass for all to see, their eyes all red and bloodshot. They reproduce like rabbits, so you can’t even know how many offspring are running around; who knows how many of them are squatting on that property. And no one has ever seen any of them leave the property and go to work.

You know who I’m talking about.

That’s right, you guessed it—wait, what? Seriously? Wow, I had no idea that you were such a racist. I’m very disappointed in you.

I’m talking about rabbits!


Yes, the house down the street has been colonized by a clutch of rabbits. As I was walking down the street a few days ago on my way to go jogging at the nearby track that I sneak in to through a hole in the fence (which they’ve simply just stopped repairing because someone—not me—always opens it up again), I looked in the yard of this abandoned house and realized that it was teeming with rabbits, all just sitting there munching on all the overgrown grass.

Now, you may not be familiar with Puerto Rican fauna, but we don’t just have feral rabbits running around. I mean, I was walking around and I saw all these white rabbits just chilling in that yard, my first thought was to look around for Alice and to wonder whether I’d done things I couldn’t recall when I’d been in San Francisco. But other than seeing those rabbits, everything else remained normal. I could not taste colors, I could not hear smells, my feet did not turn into angry marshmallow rhinoceroses, and my mother, who was with me at the time, could also see the rabbits (but then again, she’s probably an unreliable witness, because God only knows what she was getting up to during the late 60’s-early 70’s.).

My mother was thrilled to see those rabbits (perhaps because of a previous dalliance with a WHITE RABBIT? We may never know), but I respectfully disagree. These rabbits, I have concluded, are Bad for Puerto Rico, and possibly even Bad for America, like the show “24.” Here is just a brief list of why these rabbits need to go:

- They shit all over the place.
- They don’t pay taxes.
- They eat all our precious grass.
- Their eyes are creepy and red.
- They’re cute, and look really cuddly, but they fucking hate you.
- They’re bringing down property values.
- They’re for staying in Iraq indefinitely. (Seriously. Fucking neocon rabbits.)
- They taste delicious, yet they’re not on my dinner plate.
- Bugs Bunny was a terrorist whose reputation was rehabilitated by the powerful carrot lobby.
- My faithful dogservant Santiago wants to catch them but they are much too fast for him.

Moreover, I have photographic evidence that they are ruining the neighborhood. This is an actual picture what our neighborhood looked when we moved in here in the early 90’s:












Here's what it looks like now:


And what do you think was in that little baggie? I’ll give you a hint: who likes grass? Rabbits, that’s who.

Oh, if only Rudy Giuliani could come and save our fair city by fixing all the broken windows.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

War on Phones Update

It’s not a day of paying the bills here at the Hacienda without a little telephonic fraud. Back in March, an internet services account arose from the dead and started sending us bills again. This account was for my stepfather’s office, and was started about a decade ago with Isla Net, a company that has not existed for years. The account we had with them has also not existed for years, since we cancelled it. Apparently, Centennial bought out Isla Net, and I guess as a housewarming present, decided to reactivate all sorts of old accounts. Like ours.

So in March, we get a bill from Centennial for $25. Not one to take this type of thing lying down, I immediately called up Centennial and cancelled the account. They assured me that they cancelled it, and that I would not be hearing from them again. But of course, this month they sent another bill.

Oh, I thought, it’s on now.

What Centennial didn't know is that I’ve fought this war before, in my Vietnam-like battle with Claro, the automated telecom servant of all that is evil and unholy. And Centennial, my friends, is no Claro, and it was simply not ready to counter the lengths to which I was willing to go to send this account back to the billing hell from whence it crawled back into our lives.

Centennial doesn't have the wall of impregnable computer menus that Claro has been able to set up to thwart anyone from actually speaking to any living being employed by them. Their computer lets you talk to an actual human being very quickly. These humans, however, are trained in the ninja arts of not solving your problems, and katana blade of their arsenal is demanding to talk only to the person whose name is on the account. And so, when I called this afternoon, I was posing as my stepfather, the doctor.

I explained to them that I’d called in March to cancel, and that I’d been given assurances that said cancellation had indeed taken effect. Immediately the customer service rep countered with “Yes, but did you write a letter?”

Just the opening I was looking for. I went for the nuclear option. Here’s how the rest of the conversation played out:

[And here et me make clear that my stepfather in no way resembles the portrayal of him here. But my version of my stepfather is out to get shit done. He knows that you have to can't make the trains run on time without breaking a few eggs. Or something.]

Doctor (actually me, in all my Method glory): “Did I write a letter? No, young lady, I did not write a letter, because I was not told that I had to write a letter. And honestly, had I been told I needed to write a letter, I would not have done so, as I consider that requirement to be burdensome and wholly unreasonable.”

Customer Service (thinking, I've got you now, sucka!): “Yes, but we need you to write a letter—“

Doctor: “You listen to me, I’m not writing any letter. Do you know how many times I’ve cancelled this account over the years? I’m a DOCTOR, right now I need to be seeing PATIENTS, not writing letters to CENTENNIAL! There’s people out in my waiting room right now that need TREATMENT and you’re sitting here asking me to write you a LETTER—“

CS: “Yes but we need you to—“

Doctor: “You know what, I’ll write you a letter, I’ll write you a letter all right, but you know what I’m going to do with that letter? I’m going to send a copy of it to the Department of Consumer Affairs, along with a note to my son-in-law, the DIRECTOR of that agency, detailing the ABUSES that you people have subjected me to—“

CS [meekly]: “Doctor, please, don’t worry, I’ll cancel the account right now, don’t worry about that letter, I’ll have our accounts staffer cancel it as soon as he gets back from lunch—“

Doctor: “Lunch? Young lady, it’s 3:30 right now. I’m not waiting for some person whom is clearly not going to return from his 3-hour lunch to take care of this. Kindly go in there and cancel it yourself right now, while I’m on the phone.”

CS: “Yes, Doctor, of course.” [Types furiously.] “OK, you’re all set.”

Doctor: “Well, thank you for all your help. You’ve been very helpful. Sorry if I seemed rude back there.”

CS: “Oh, it’s no problem. I’m just glad I was able to help, Doctor.”

Doctor (triumphantly): “Well you have a nice day now. Bye bye.”

Hells yeah. Soon I shall be ready for my Day of Reckoning with Sprint!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Armageddon It

Here's a guest blog for your Hacienda fix, while Don Paco reorganizes his estate. Say hello to Don Paco's little brother, currently hiding from the law in Scotland.

* * * * * *

It's finally happening - we're gonna blow up the moon.

Ok, no, we’re not there yet, unfortunately. But in the meantime, there’s no shortage of hare-brained space crusades for America to get excited about. You may remember a while back when the news began reporting that Earth might get hit by an asteroid in 2030. Thankfully, that's no longer the case, at least not until 2071.

Not one to let a good cash cow slip past them, NASA are totally riding this asteroid till it squeals – a metaphor that is actually more literal than you might think. The snappily-named Object 2000 SG344 is still going to fly pretty close to Earth, and damned if we aren’t gonna try and poke at it, as long as it’s there. We have the technology.

Except that we don’t. The plan is not simply to poke at it, but actually land a few dudes on it, and have them crash out there for a week. If only that were just another metaphor.

This sexy new plan to land people on a hurtling space-rock has jumped to the front of the space mission queue, ahead of the slightly less sexy, Bush-approved "moon landing by 2020" and "Mars landing sometime" plans that have been kicking about until now.

Jerry Bruckheimer: seems to be funding NASA

And I, for one, am all for it, mostly because I am an unabashed fan of frivolous space crusades, as well as the 1998 movie Armageddon, which has apparently replaced all the top scientists at NASA now that the US government is bankrupt. If you ask me, send Steve Buscemi up there as quick as possible. (Not so fast, Affleck.)


Billy Bob Thornton demonstrates the latest NASA technology

But I am not without misgivings. If Michael Bay’s 1998 opus taught me anything, it is that landing on a space-rock is bloody difficult. We will need not one but two manned rockets because half the crew are certainly going to die awful, spacey deaths. We will need to inexplicably explode a space station en route, and given that Mir is no longer there for us to pick on, it’ll have to be the International Space Station, which was almost starting to be useful. And it almost goes without saying that the mission will require awesome, hardcore space-tanks to drive around in once we’ve successfully landed on the space rock. Unfortunately, the only gear NASA have the money for seems to be a Tonka truck for helping the astronauts build space-sand castles:


Actual Constellation Program graphic from the NASA website

Another thing we all know from spaceship movies is that once you send people into space, one of them (usually the one whose name is Steve Buscemi) will instantly flip out, with murderous results. This is why, as in last year’s spaceship movie Sunshine, one of the astronauts will have to be a psychiatrist with his own holographic chill-out room. Unfortunately, as you may have gleaned by now, NASA are pretty skint these days, and so instead of replacing our ancient lunar module with a sharp new spaceship sheathed in chrome and operated by floating touchscreens, we’re keeping the crusty old pre-digital-watch era design. So, in short, we’re sending three astronauts up for the grueling 6-month journey in a 5 meter-wide tin-foil Hershey’s Kiss:


Actual Constellation Program quote: “A clean-sheet-of-paper design is too expensive and risky”

The funniest part of all this is that, as far as I can tell, no one is quite sure whether Object 2000 SG344 is even an asteroid at all. Given its smallish size, about the length of a “small yacht,” and its tidy orbit, which is suspiciously similar to Earth’s own, NASA has said there’s a good possibility that the object is actually a loose Apollo Program booster rocket from the 60s.

At this juncture, a few predictions are in order.

Outcome 1: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, and they actually manage to land on it. Once they step out of their Hershey’s Kiss module, they immediately float off into deep space because the asteroid has essentially no gravity.

Outcome 2: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and it turns out to be a booster rocket, causing them to turn on each other, suddenly murderous when faced with the prospect of having to pee into tubes and smell each others’ farts for another three months with nothing to show for it except maybe medals of honour from President “El Comandante” Cheney upon their return.

Outcome 3: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, infinitesimally altering the object’s gravitational field and orbit, causing it to fly straight into Russia, with an American flag stuck in it, in 2030.

Outcome 4: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and find it is made of crude oil, diamonds, and super-advanced alien technology, but can’t bring any of it back home because our Tonka trucks aren’t big enough.

Outcome 5: Jerry Bruckheimer kills the project and turns all of NASA’s budget towards building robots that transform.

The future is lame.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Some Law Clerk in Hawaii is Pissed


Above: The Large Hadron Collider


Imagine that you are a recent law school graduate working as a law clerk in Hawaii. (Law clerks, in case you didn't know, are the twenty year-olds that write all the opinions that federal courts put out. That's right, after all the fussing and huffing and puffing about judicial confirmations in the Senate, all those judges that go on to the bench following confirmation then go out and hire, without so much as a background check, kids in their mid-twenties who've never even had another job to write all their opinions for them.) So you're a law clerk, you've got a cushy gig in Hawaii, it pays well, the hours are good, and you get to live in Hawaii for the year. Half the cases you're in charge of deal with postal workers being pissed off at the shift supervisor at the Honolulu Post Office, and the others all deal with environmental issues.

And then one day, you walk into your office, find that your judge has been assigned a new case. Anxious to see which postal worker is suing the Postmaster General this week, you open it up... and you realize that you just got stuck with a case where some scientists in Hawaii are asking the court to step in to stop some other scientists in Switzerland from... creating a black hole that will eat our entire planet. That's a clerkship-ruiner right there.

Well, if you happen to clerk for Judge Helen Gillmore in Hawaii, your clerkship just got ruined, because Hawaiian scientists Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho just filed that very lawsuit last week, and it landed on her docket. Wagner and Sancho claim that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), an enormous particle accelerator which is scheduled to undertake an experiment that would replicate the conditions that existed in the seconds immediately following the Big Bang. I have no idea how it would go about doing this, nor do I think that I would be able to understand any of the results of any of the experiments this thing was built to carry out. However, this intuitively seems to be a don't-try-this-at-home type of area to be mucking around in, and Sancho and Wagner's lawsuit purports to give us a couple of reasons why the LHC's experiment shouldn't be allowed to go forward, namely these:

1. The LHC could create tiny black holes that could gain strength and eventually consume everything around them, like the LHC, France, and the Mediterranean Sea.

2. The LHC could create weird particles called strangelets out of smashed quarks, and these strangelets would then turn every other particle they touched into strangelets. Again, France would be in danger, and we couldn't save it, because when we landed our troops at Omaha Beach, our troops would be turned into strangelets. And you are not supporting the troops if you are letting them get turned into theoretical subatomic particles by power-mad Swiss scientists.

3. The LHC could create other weird particles with only one magnetic pole. These would also somehow turn other matter into something horrible.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku thinks we don't need to worry about this stuff, and generally I am inclined to believe him, mostly because a) I read one of his books 10 years ago, which I don't remember but I recall thinking was pretty cool, and b) his face is all over ads for CUNY in the New York subway system. If Kaku thinks we aren't going to be eaten by our own black holes, then I suppose I should believe that we will be okay.

Also, I think Sancho and Wagner are forgetting the most dangerous possibility of all: what if the LHC somehow opens up a portal into hell, like what happened to the Event Horizon*? If Lawrence Fishburne isn't available to save us, what will we do then? Michio Kaku can't explain that one away.

The bottom line is that this Large Hadron Collider is trouble. I wish Sancho and Wagner well in their efforts to stave off the end of all existence via a timely intervention in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, and I am also glad that I am not the clerk assigned to that case. Who wants to write up an opinion dismissing a case that then leads to the world getting swallowed up by a tiny French black hole? Not me.

*The Event Horizon is a haunted ship in space.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BUSTED!


Aníbal Acevedo hasn't said this yet, but I bet he will in just a few minutes: "This is all some vast conspiracy against me."

So I wake up this morning, readying for a trip, and what's on the news but the fact that our illustrious governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, has been slapped with some twenty-odd criminal counts of violating federal campaign finance laws, and he is currently negotiating how to turn himself in to the Justice Department! Many of the charges appear to stem from shady fund-raising dealings in Philadelphia during the early years of this decade, but apparently there's also a ton of charges pertaining to the illegal use of these and other funds up until very recently. All of this would appear to represent the culmination of the PDP's goal of achieving a level of corruption equal to or greater than that of the PNP. Congratulations, you did it! Way to keep those eyes on the prize!

And me about to hop a plane. Bastards! Expect to hear more about this from me soon, and sorry for the absence. The last few weeks have been tempestuous here at the Hacienda.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Crap Presidents: Tippecanoe and Tyler Also


Above: Political campaigns sure were cooler in 1840, when your campaign could essentially be "I likes to gets DRUNK!"


As you might have noticed in the past seven years, sometimes somebody becomes President and the whole thing just doesn’t really work out. In order to commemorate this rather painful historical truism, I hereby inaugurate the a new running series, The George W. Bush Crap Presidents Series. Our first installment is a double shot: the ninth and tenth Presidents, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler.

Tyler’s rise to the Presidency marked the first time an afterthought held that lofty office. If you’re at all familiar with Tyler, you’ll know that he is the “Tyler” in the famous 19th century political slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” “Tippecanoe,” of course, refers to William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate who won the Presidency in 1840 based on a campaign which celebrated his military accomplishments, his (fabricated) desire to lead a simple, rustic life in the countryside, and love of alcohol, which, with a few tweaks, has essentially become the way that the Republican party always sells its candidates, who all mysteriously buy ranches in the western U.S. the year before they run for President, ranches full of deadly, deadly brush that just demands to be cleared.


Left: Tyler wore the same outfit to clear brush that he wore to give his eternally long speeches in freezing weather.


Harrison, a Crap President if ever there was one, is remembered—when he is remembered at all—for delivering the longest inauguration speech ever, clocking in at nearly two hours. Here is an excerpt:
It was the beautiful remark of a distinguished English writer that ‘in the Roman senate Octavius had a party and Anthony a party, but the Commonwealth had none.’ Yet the senate continued to meet in the temple of liberty to talk of the sacredness and beauty of the Commonwealth and gaze at the statues of the elder Brutus and of the Curtii and Decii, and the people assembled in the forum, not, as in the days of Camillus and the Scipios, to cast their free votes for annual magistrates or pass upon the acts of the senate, but to receive from the hands of the leaders of the respective parties their share of the spoils and to shout for one or the other, as those collected in Gaul or Egypt and the lesser Asia would furnish the larger dividend. The spirit of liberty had fled, and, avoiding the abodes of civilized man, had sought protection in the wilds of Scythia or Scandinavia…

It is safe to assume that Liberty was probably not the only one thinking of fleeing on that cold and wet early March day. Deadly stuff, this speech (literally, it would turn out). As broad as the 68 year old Harrison demonstrated his command of the classics to be, he also demonstrated a rather shocking lapse in judgment in deciding to deliver his endless speech without wearing an overcoat. Sparing the young nation any further pontification on the evils of partisanship in the classical-era Mediterranean, Harrison contracted pneumonia and died within the month.

His successor John Tyler had an undistinguished, crap Presidency, a time that was marked primarily by the creation of a variety of other political parties, almost all of which had “Hating President Tyler” as some part of their platform. He spent most of his presidency fighting Henry Clay over banking policy and almost botching the annexation of Texas. Though he had run with Harrison on the Whig ticket, Tyler had been a Democratic Republican (first a Jacksonian, and later an anti-Jacksonian), and after becoming President he pissed off his party by pretty much vetoing everything they wanted to do. They responded by kicking him out of the party, and his entire Cabinet (except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster) quit. Webster would also quit later, a shrewd move considering what would happen to his successor.


Left: John Tyler, looking like the winner he was.


Tyler also seems to have been a terrible guy to know, as it seems that if you had any sort of association with him, you were apt to drop dead at any moment. On Harrison’s death, Tyler became the first Vice President to become President due to the death of a President, and spent his term losing the battle to keep those around him alive. His wife, Letitia Tyler, became the first First Lady to die mid-term when she passed away in 1842. Then, in 1844, Tyler, members of his Cabinet, his new fiancée Julia Gardiner, and others participated in a ceremony aboard the USS Princeton, where a cannon backfired and killed his new Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, his Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, and his fiancée’s father, David Gardiner. Julia married him anyway, and years later he would die and leave her a penniless widow. Though everyone around him died, Tyler managed to have many children who lived to adulthood, and he had a horse named “The General” that lived for 20 years.

Tyler was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress (which they did as a “fuck you” on his last full day in office). Congress also tried to impeach Tyler, but I guess his aptitude for failure was contagious, and they were not able to. Belonging to no party, and apparently liked by no one except the woman who married him in spite of his indirect role in the death of her father, Tyler did not run for another term. After his presidency, Tyler went on to serve in Congress—the Confederate Congress.

William Henry Harrison and John Tyler demonstrate that you can be a crap President without shoddily planning disastrous wars or by having evil Vice Presidents (Tyler didn’t even have a Vice President). The best thing that you can say about the Harrison presidency is that his grandson (another Crap President candidate) would later become President, and the best thing that you can say about Tyler’s time in office is that he didn’t cause the Irish Potato Famine. Unless he did, which would not be at all surprising.

So the next time you send a text message you shouldn’t have sent, or leave your DNA all over a crime scene, or pay thousands of dollars to a prostitute to cross state lines, don’t beat yourself up about it—just remember that you are, in your own special way, honoring the legacy our most Crap Presidents.