Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights and co-author of Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World. I'm general partner at Tofu Hound Press, and co-host of Vegan Freak Radio.

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bob torres

I'm Bob Torres, Ph.D. I'm author of Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights and co-author of Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World. I'm general partner at Tofu Hound Press, and co-host of Vegan Freak Radio.

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This obsession with “street-cred” reaches its apex of absurdity as hipsters have recently and wholeheartedly adopted the fixed-gear bike as the only acceptable form of transportation – only to have brakes installed on a piece of machinery that is defined by its lack thereof.

—  Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters via Ludditerobot

Procrastination is the sweetest when you have the most to do. And I have a lot to do.

I imported a bunch of posts from my Wordpress blog, including the comments. Some of the titles look messed up (spaces missing, etc.) but I can’t be bothered to go through and fix them just yet.

All good things in time.

[W]hen Mr. Bush visited Tbilisi in 2005, the authorities estimated that 150,000 people showed up to see him. He famously climbed up on a platform and wiggled his hips to loud Georgian folk music.

— The New York Times reported this nausea-inducing moment in today’s edition.

If only a) My parents had a basement; and b) I could move back into it I might be able to achieve at this level in GuitarHero. Or not. 

It is like a car crash; I can’t look away.

It is like a car crash; I can’t look away.

According to the Washington Post, US Federal Agents may now detain your laptop at the border for an indefinite period of time, and — get this — without any reasonable cause whatsoever:

The policies state that officers may “detain” laptops “for a reasonable period of time” to “review and analyze information.” This may take place “absent individualized suspicion.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’”

Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Perhaps I just read the US Constitution too literally, but this strikes me as a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. See if you agree:

Amendment 4 - Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Considering that a laptop may, in fact, contain your “papers and effects,” it seems reasonable to expect that the seizure and inspection of your laptop without due cause would violate the 4th Amendment. Sadly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit disagrees. According to the same article from the Post, that court upheld the right of the Gummint to take your laptop at the border without reasonable cause.

It seems pretty clear to me that we need someone with a big legal team and lots of money to test these regulations with a laptop drive encoded with something like TrueCrypt or PGP. Upon refusing to hand over your keys to the drive to some bumbling border agent, what would happen? Would you face “extraordinary rendition” to some Eastern European or Middle Eastern country where you’d be tortured for your password? Would you have to go back to where you came from? Would you be denied your rights of citizenship in the US? Would you become a person without a state?

The above notwithstanding, does anyone actually think this is going to deter any terrorism or whatever it is that the US is actually afraid of? I’d say that it would prevent only the most amateur of terrorists from getting information across the border. It is trivially easy to encrypt a file and email it to someone, or to put it on a server somewhere, and download it from just about anywhere in the world. No one actually needs a laptop, flash drive, iPod, cell phone, or whatever to get information anywhere. Thus, I’m not sure that this regulation actually accomplishes anything at all, except providing a pretext for the government to deepen its control and surveillance of us.

Everyone seems to have their knickers in a twist over the fact that Barack Obama pointed out that he doesn’t look like the old white dudes on US currency. Shockingly, this simple observation, having come from the mouth of a politician like Obama, is actually true (and painfully obvious).

Despite the obviousness of what is essentially a non-problematic statement, the McCain camp accuses Obama of “playing the race card,” which, when boiled down to its simplest terms, means that they believe he is guilty of pointing out that there are people other than white people in the United States. Whiteness, of course, works best when it is more or less the taken-for-granted norm with unspoken power. When someone points out that it exists, or that it wields a particular set of powered relations, well then that person is guilty of “playing the race card,” which is patently ridiculous.

Beyond all of that, it seems clear to me that this is yet another instance of professional Republican politicking. By putting out the notion that Obama is playing the race card, the McCain campaign is actually sending a signal to those white voters who are uncomfortable with the notion of a black man being president. The message is simple (and simplistic): it says, “Watch out, insecure white people. Here’s another one of those uppity blacks complaining that they have nothing, when they’re stealing our jobs with affirmative action.” With the economy more or less in the shitter these days, the twin hatreds of racism (towards blacks) and xenophobia (towards “illegals”) will redouble themselves to provide a convenient narrative for white failure and a new set of fears, which will almost certainly be played expertly by the Republican party.

Even if Obama somehow wins (I think the odds are significantly slimmer than they appear on paper because of covert racism that does not come out in polls) he’ll be hamstrung by a horrendous deficit left to him by GWB. He’ll face either a crippled government, or the prospect of raising taxes to pay for the things he’s proposing. This leads to an ugly self-fulfilling prophecy in which the Republicans will be proven right when they say that Democrats are “tax and spend liberals,” and that government is grossly inefficient at providing services. All of this is exacerbated by the fact that Republicans generally hire smarter (and more evil) strategists than the Democrats.

Jenna and I were out walking the other day, just prior to our run, talking as we always do, and getting yanked about by the dogs. As is the case of late, our conversation turned to a discussion of moving out of rural America.

"You know, we really didn’t get to the Adirondacks much," Jenna lamented.

"Yeah, I know. We really should have made a point of going there more. Anyway, I know we didn’t go, but I liked knowing it was there."

"I know what you mean," Jenna responded. "It is pretty cool knowing there’s all that wilderness so close. That’s one thing I may miss when we move."

"I hear you. We never really used it, but it was good to know we could have had we wanted to. Still, we’re moving to a city, where we can have a different set of things like that."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, have you ever looked at the back of the Philly City Paper? There are ads there where you can pay people to come and torture your balls if you want, or shove a bull whip in your bum, or otherwise do whatever kind of kink you’re into."

Concerned that I may not have been entirely forthcoming about my sexual proclivities, Jenna worriedly asks “And this is interesting why?”

"Well," I responded, "it is kind of like the Adirondacks. I mean, I never intend to call anyone to torture my junk, or whip me or whatever, but a part of me really likes knowing that it is there, that there’s enough weirdness and randomness and crazy humanity to sustain this stuff, even if I never use it."

"Yeah," she retorted, "and more importantly, you can get vegan Chinese food at 2 in the morning if you want it."

And this, my dear friends, encapsulates just a few of the many reasons that the charms of rural life are now lost on us.

With 70% of people saying that more government programs should help those who are struggling, is it any surprise that we’re seeing a rise in crimes of material desperation such as these?

With a Surge in Iron and Steel Prices, Thieves Are Stealing Metal Manhole Covers - NYTimes.com:

"PHILADELPHIA — Francis McConnell is a field supervisor for the Philadelphia Water Department, but lately he is acting more like an undercover police officer.

His mission is to figure out who is stealing the city’s manhole covers and its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past year, up from an annual average of about 100.”

While this is partly a story about increasingly valuable metals, it is also a story about desperation and need in the city I grew up in and will be returning to in 2009. The fact that people can make a few bucks stealing manhole covers is an indication of just how badly they need those few bucks.

Spelling Fail

Obama Courting Evangelicals Once Loyal to Bush - NYTimes.com:

"Between now and November, the Obama forces are planning as many as 1,000 house parties and dozens of Christian rock concerts, gatherings of religious leaders, campus visits and telephone conference calls to bring together voters of all ages motivated by their faith to engage in politics. It is the most intensive effort yet by a Democratic candidate to reach out to self-identified evangelical or born-again Christians and to try to pry them away from their historical attachment to the Republican Party."

Notwithstanding the important points raised here by Ludditerobot about the Supreme Court, I do have to basically agree with Tony’s comments the other day about Obama’s shameless pandering. That, and I find anyone trying to appeal to Christian Evangelists as scary as hell. I’m thinking that we need fewer of these end-times nutjobs around rather than more, but what do I know? I actually find evolution and photosynthesis and, like, science compelling.

AT&T Whistleblower: Spy Bill Creates ‘Infrastructure for a Police State’:

"Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter—such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: ‘When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.’ This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship.

The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment—all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.

What is curious is that in talking with some young people over the last few years since 9/11/2001 — and by this, I mean college-aged men and women — very few of them have issues with the Government collecting data on them, monitoring their email or telephone, or otherwise observing them. They reason that since they do nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about. Plus, it stops the terrorists, right?

Most interestingly, many of these young people view my paranoia about personal privacy as almost a quaint, by-gone product of an earlier era, sort of the way like the Bush administration tends to view the Geneva Conventions.