Through The Static

September 11, 2008

Death notice: “In lieu of flowers, please vote Democratic”

Filed under: Culture,Elections,Humor,Media,Politics,WTF — ausaydong @ 3:08 pm

I need to think of a clever line in my obituary like this.

I started hanging out with Ken Swanborn when we were both living on Maryland Avenue in Dolton and attending St. Jude the Apostle in South Holland. We played on the same football and baseball teams, we shared a passion for the White Sox, and we loved watching late-night TV and listening to George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Cheech & Chong.

As a comic, Swanny didn’t reach the heights, but he always kept working. He was damn funny.

We lost him last week, without warning. Dozens of his friends raised a glass to him at Bogart’s in Homewood on Sunday night while cheering the Bears and remembering the many, many laughs over the years.

Just behind Ken’s love for his wife and his family and his comedy was his passion for politics. It wasn’t surprising that his notice in the Sun-Times ended with “In lieu of flowers, vote Democrat.”

Read why the Chicago Tribune didn’t run that line.

“Well, it was not intentional, but we do have protocols and we do have rules we have to follow.”

“We have guidelines.”

August 13, 2008

Are Asians the New Invisible Man?

Filed under: Culture,Race — disciplepete @ 5:58 pm

Good article, check out the whole thing, here’s some of it. Huffington Post:

In the category of Things We Already Know, a new USA Today/Gallup Poll finds that most Americans believe “racism is widespread against blacks in the United States.” As is to be expected, the degree that people hold this belief is dependent on their own race — black, white or Hispanic. The survey in and of itself is worth taking a look at but, like I said, doesn’t exactly stun with unexpectedness.

Except for one thing…

What was interesting to me was that a survey about how “most Americans” feel about racism and minorities didn’t include responses from Asian-Americans.

They’re not minorities? They don’t have views on racism?

Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders make up only about 5 percent of the population, so by default maybe they lie outside the strict definition of “most Americans.” But the poll was culling a variety of racial attitudes, and it managed to include views of racism against whites. You’d think if the survey had room to include views on the pervasive systemic oppression whites suffer through (now go back and read that sentence sarcastically), they’d take the time to chat up an Asian or two.

 

White Americans no longer a majority by 2042

Filed under: Culture,Oh White People...,Race,White People! — disciplepete @ 5:45 pm

Sorry to break it to you, bobblebot! Yahoo:

WASHINGTON – White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2042, according to new government projections. That’s eight years sooner than previous estimates, made in 2004.

The nation has been growing more diverse for decades, but the process has sped up through immigration and higher birth rates among minority residents, especiallyHispanics.

It is also growing older.

“The white population is older and very much centered around theaging baby boomers who are well past their high fertility years,” said William Frey, a demographer at theBrookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “The future of America is epitomized by the young people today. They are basically the melting pot we are going to see in the future.”…

By 2050, whites will make up 46 percent of the population and blacks will make up 15 percent, a relatively small increase from today. Hispanics, who make up about 15 percent of the population today, will account for 30 percent in 2050, according to the new projections.

Asians, which make up about 5 percent of the population, are projected to increase to 9 percent by 2050.

August 12, 2008

Little Chinese girl dissed at Olympics for not being cute enough

Filed under: China,Culture,Government,Olympics,World News,WTF — ausaydong @ 5:16 pm

Sorry for my absence on this blog. Please tell me everyone has caught this story (this one from MSNBC, but there are a ton of them), where Beijing Olympics officials pulled the 7-year-old singer of the National Anthem at the Opening Ceremony because she was not cute enough.

A 7-year-old Chinese girl was not good-looking enough for the Olympics opening ceremony, so another little girl with a pixie smile lip-synched “Ode to the Motherland,” an official said.

In the latest example of the lengths Beijing took for a perfect start to the Summer Games, a member of China’s Politburo asked for the last-minute change to match one girl’s face with another’s voice, the ceremony’s chief music director said in an interview with Beijing Radio.

“The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest,” Chen Qigang said in a video of the interview posted online Sunday night.

And more:

Lin Miaoke’s performance Friday night, like the ceremony itself, was an immediate hit. “Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke becomes instant star with patriotic song,” the China Daily newspaper headline said Tuesday.

But the real voice behind the tiny, pigtailed girl in the red dress who wowed 91,000 spectators at the National Stadium on opening night really belonged to 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. Her looks apparently failed the cuteness test with officials organizing the ceremony, but Chen said her voice was judged the most beautiful.

“The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen,” Chen said. “Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi’s voice was the most outstanding.”

Some Chinese folks weigh in on the debate:

“The organizers really messed up on this one,” said Luo Shaoyang, 34, a retail worker in Beijing.

“This is like a voice-over for a cartoon character,” Luo said. “Why couldn’t they pick a kid who is both cute and a good singer? This damages the reputation of both kids for their future, especially the one lip-synching. Now everyone knows she’s a fraud. Who cares if she’s cute?”

Zhang Xinyi, 22, who works in marketing in Beijing, disagreed.

“I can understand why they picked the prettier girl. They need to maintain a certain aesthetic beauty during the opening ceremonies. This situation is not so bad, especially since it gives two people an opportunity to shine rather than just one.”

There’s a petition circulating to get Yang Peiyi, the real singer, on stage for the closing ceremony.

So where do you stand?

INTELLIGENCE! What Is It? Being Educated Out of Our Creativity

‘pologies for lack of witty title.  bobblebot is slogging away at ze moment.

::whirs::

Here’s a segment from the Ted conference they hold every year in Monterey, California.  Sir Ken Robinson (yeh, yeh, SIR!) is charming and funny in that witty, British-but-not-pretentious sort of way and talks about a lot of key issues that so many of us with a bachelors degree find post-undergrad.  He goes off on a lot of tangents but entertainingly so.

Okie dokes — I found his little CATS choreographer chestnut at the end a little too lofty and idealistic.  That isn’t always the case, her life story is the EXCEPTION and not the rule.

BUT he does bring up interesting points:

* intelligence is diverse, dynamic and interactive
* creativity comes through the interaction between multiple intelligences
* we need a new concept for an educational system.  our brains are mined for very specific kinds of intelligences while others are devalued, ironic, since even technological innovation is bread by imagination and creativity.

BobbLebot’s gonna get a little personal here, but when ze robot looks back upon the 2 years it spent in education, there was something about the job that kept it there: it was dynamic, interactive, emotionally engaging and it felt like it was helping people.  Helping students.

But not in the ways in which its helping was valued.

Emotionally abused, isolated, bullied and undervalued kids often hung around the robot’s purple table.  The bobblebot learned something: even privileged kids have problems! In any case, it took a lot of work, a lot of trust and a lot of patience, but what kept the BobbLebot there was the sense that it was helping these kids gain some kind of sense of value for being different, odd or living inside their own BRAINS.  BRAINS!!!

The thing that killed the robot’s spirit was the shift.  Beyond giving tykes the skills to read and write and basic math, the bot was sometimes pressured to help them with their homework or help train them for standardized testing.  And all of this was just so incredibly USELESS!

Basically, if a student can’t pass a standardized test, he or she can’t move onto the next grade — which is a problem in and of itself because the new grade is increasingly geared toward training them for more standardized testing.  TRAINING.  Not educating.  Making sure they MEMORIZE, not learn to think for themselves.  They’re being trained to learn not to think at all.

What was the bot being paid to teach them?  To learn the skills so that they’ll succeed in an educational system that teaches them that if they don’t learn a certain skill set, if they can’t find the answer in an allotted amount of time, if they need more than a single scratch piece of paper or get confused when filling in bubbles, they’re essentially worthless.  They’re gearing them to learn (mostly) arbitrary skills or sets of knowledge (beyond reading, comprehension and basic math) that aren’t really applicable in undergrad anyway.

They’re pressing families to invest money in SAT prep and educational centers for their kids who fall behind, because if they fall behind they can’t get into this private school or get into that AP class to get into this kind of university — AUUUGH!  RAT RACE!  RAT RACE!!

Their brains ARE being mined in a very specific way that is quite disturbing.  This isn’t to say that math sucks (though for the bot, numbers and figures don’t naturally mix – BLIP!) or that physics is without value, but they certainly are overvalued, especially for the many who really don’t have an interest or aptitude for them.  They are being conditioned to desire or work for these fields in ways that destroy creativity.  It’s all for pushing towards economic productivity.

It’s not even about technological innovation, the way education is framed.  It’s about thinking in a very linear fashion.  It’s about plugging in very specific formulas and equations — on a metaphoric as well as literal level.  When we’re taught Shakespeare (BLEH!  not to bash the bard, but MUST he be the standard of ALL Western literary achievement?) we’re taught to read his work in a very specific way, to perform it in a very specific way, to write essays on it in a very specific fashion.  You see, even in highschool English lit, there IS a right and wrong answer, apparently.  Or a right and wrong way to answer.  Fill in the blank.  Agree or disagree.  Thesis statement.  Support.  Quote.  “Analysis” — which isn’t real analysis anyway, but more of a translation of what you think the author’s already saying.

And it’s not even about educational reform anymore. Fixing leaks in an oxymoronic system will not fix the problem.  More teachers is not the answer.  More money is not the answer.  It’s the MATERIALS.  It’s about what is VALUED in an academic sense.  It’s about creative thinking and creative teaching.  But people keep telling us that there aren’t the resources for that.  (resources = funds in their brains)

::ga-DUNK!::

When has creativity ever needed dollars and cents?  Creative things CAN be MADE with materials that are PURCHASED with money, but money is not creativity.  Just like scoring high on a standardized test is not a sign of real intelligence.

The thing is, if the standards of standardized testing (bubbling in, memorization, sitting still, time management) become the authority for entry into higher education (which is getting increasingly static in what’s become standardized academic material – film studies, creative writing, etc) then what are the chances that the brilliant minds will be allowed to burn as bright as stars when these very minds are being mined for rote facts, compliance and mediocrity?

QUESTION: do you think THIS dude would have survived the very academic environment in which we are currently situated???

He’s brilliant, he’s excited, he can’t think while sitting still — can you IMAGINE being in class with this dude?  Most of all – beyond the performance, beyond the eccentricities, he’s HUMAN.  We’re not training humans in our schools.  We’re not training robots.  (robots are COOL!)  We’re training machines.

We need a NEW paradigm.  This sh*t has gone too far.

July 25, 2008

What math gender gap? Study finds girls, boys equally adept

Filed under: Culture,Gender — disciplepete @ 6:02 pm

SJ Mercury:

Girls = Boys.

A new study puts to rest one of the most widespread myths about boys’ and girls’ aptitude in math. After analyzing 7 million test scores, researchers found no difference.

The findings demonstrate great strides since the 1970s, when major studies showed pronounced differences in the scores of males and females. By the 1980s, younger students were matched – but girls fell behind when they hit adolescence.

Study authors at the University of California-Berkeley and University of Wisconsin-Madison offer several theories behind the improvements, including changes in educational approaches and career expectations.

“Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data,” said Wisconsin’s Janet S. Hyde, lead investigator of the study, published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

Using vast data generated by the No Child Left Behind legislation, which mandates annual testing of youths from elementary school through high school, the new study concludes that the gender gap has vanished among students of all ages.

This is an interesting tidbit:

Among math whizzes, there remain sex differences.

But they don’t add up to anything definitive. For instance, there are more white boys than girls with scores in the 99th percentile. But among Asian-Americans, it’s reversed: Girls outperform boys. (Reliable data was not available for Hispanics, blacks and American Indians.)

California Is First State to Ban Trans Fats

Filed under: Culture,Food,Health — disciplepete @ 5:54 pm

NYT:

LOS ANGELES — California, a national trendsetter in all matters edible, became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday to phase out their use.

Under the new law, trans fats, long linked to health problems, must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006 — it became fully effective on July 1 — and Philadelphia, Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., have done so as well.

Pa. teens charged in fatal beating of immigrant

Filed under: Culture,Oh White People...,Race,Wake Up Call,White People! — disciplepete @ 3:13 pm

Yahoo:

PORT CARBON, Pa. – Three white teens were charged Friday in what officials said was an epithet-filled fatal beating of an illegal Mexican immigrant in a small northeast Pennsylvania coal town. Brandon J. Piekarsky, 16, and Colin J. Walsh, 17, were charged as adults with homicide and ethnic intimidation in the July 12 attack on Luis Ramirez.

A third teen, Derrick M. Donchak, 18, was charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other offenses. All are from Shenandoah, where the attack occurred.

Additional charges are expected in the case that has roiled Shenandoah, a small, economically depressed town where police have reported friction between whites and a growing Hispanic population…

…The youths goaded Ramirez and the girl, saying, “You should get out of this neighborhood” and “Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here,” documents said. After Ramirez and the girl began walking away, someone yelled an ethnic slur at him, court documents said. He responded, “What’s your problem?”

A fight ensued, during which police said Walsh punched Ramirez in the face. The victim fell and hit his head on the street, leaving him unconscious, after which Piekarsky kicked him in the head, police said.

All three suspects used ethnic slurs during the fight, which ended with Ramirez in convulsions and foaming at the mouth, authorities said. The attackers fled the scene; Ramirez underwent surgery but died July 14 of head injuries.

Piekarsky and Walsh were being held without bail, while Donchak was held on $75,000 bail.

The lawyer of one of the attackers says that this wasn’t a racially motivated attack…umm, ok:

He said that although slurs might have been used, the fight was not motivated by ethnicity.

“I think any time there’s a fight and any time you have one ethnic group fighting another, there’s going to be racial slurs,” he said. “I’ve seen that since I was a kid on a playground 20 years ago, but they never called it ethnic intimidation until very recently.”

July 20, 2008

CHINA: One Nation, Under God(‘s Eye)

look!  its fun AND creepy!

look! it's fun AND creepy!

Talk about the Panopticon Effect, version 10.0.  The panopticon effect (which has been cited by historical theorists like Foucault), in shorthand, is like this: let’s say you’re building a prison yard. But you’ve got a problem.  So many prisoners (can Schwarzeneggar hear a “woot”?), but not enough personnel to police them (“BOOOO!” says ze gov’nah).

it always feels like, somebodys watching meeeeee... and ive got no privacy... whoooa~!

it always feels like, somebody's watching meeeeee... and i've got no privacy... whoooa~!

So you build a high tower in the center of the prison yard.  The tower essentially towers above the entire space, so the dude chilling high up in the tower can see all.  With its span of windows on all sides, the dude can see all without being seen by anyone.  This dude has a God’s Eye view of everything.

Of course, the dude in the panoptic tower can’t see EVERYBODY at the SAME TIME — but since the prisoners don’t know when they’re being watched or who’s being watched when, the logic behind this is that they begin to police themselves.

Security cameras and ittle bittle rittle mirrors also play this role, from streetlights to casinos to your local 7-11.  But you already knew this.

Anyhoo, it looks as though China’s taking it to a whole new level, creating a high-tech police state crowned with an All-Seeing Eye — city by city.  And is coming to a theater near you. It’s basically how technological tools of “liberation” like Facebook, cell phones, and ze interwebs are being used against us as tools of repression and control.

EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

Kawaii for SaLe: EYE SHALL ERADICATE YOUR FREEDOM WITH MAH CUTENESS.

It’s a super long article, so I’ll try to pluck the juicy bits.  But when y’all have time, y’all should read more about it in terms of how it’s already bleeding onto our shores.  Por ejemplo — our passports, the new versions, have microchips implanted in them, so that you can be globally tracked.

From Rolling Stone magazine:

China’s All-Seeing Eye

With the help of U.S. defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export.

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and was WATCHING YOU!

ShenZen, China is being WATCHED... and is WATCHING YOU!

Y’all need some context?

Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it — thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port — to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis. The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture — the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well. Today, Shenzhen is a city of 12.4 million people, and there is a good chance that at least half of everything you own was made here: iPods, laptops, sneakers, flatscreen TVs, cellphones, jeans, maybe your desk chair, possibly your car and almost certainly your printer. Hundreds of luxury condominiums tower over the city; many are more than 40 stories high, topped with three-story penthouses. Newer neighborhoods like Keji Yuan are packed with ostentatiously modern corporate campuses and decadent shopping malls.

Eeep!  A gentrification virus?!!  Turns out, it’s much bigger than that.  And badder.

Eeeep! Okie, mebbe not THAT big... or bad. Or Big. ::cross references database::

Um… but it can be purty ominous.  How so?

This has not happened by accident. China today, epitomized by Shenzhen’s transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society. Sometimes called “market Stalinism,” it is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism.

see that black bulb-y thing hovering at the top? yeppers, that's just one of the many millions of cameras implanted into and policing the city.

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

Do you sense the ominous-ness??!!

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture.  buh...

buh... eye thinks u gits ze picture. buh...

The thing is, unlike the security cams we gots here, these are in high-definition.  Much like that flat panel compyu-TOR screen you’re staring at right now… buh… only better, FASTER, STRONGER…

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.”

--

it's the all-seeing EYE! auuuugh!!! ::points to black bulb-y thingy:: -->

The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world’s attention at Tiananmen Square.

ze wave of the future waves back.  even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!!  (we can only hope.  and prey.  eep!)

ze wave of the future waves back. even STARBUCKS SHALL BE WATCHING YOU!!!! (we can only hope. and prey. eep!)

One Shenzhen-based company, China Security & Surveillance Technology, has developed software to enable the cameras to alert police when an unusual number of people begin to gather at any given location.

In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that all Internet cafes (as well as restaurants and other “entertainment” venues) install video cameras with direct feeds to their local police stations. Part of a wider surveillance project known as “Safe Cities,” the effort now encompasses 660 municipalities in China. It is the most ambitious new government program in the Pearl River Delta, and supplying it is one of the fastest-growing new markets in Shenzhen.

Jeepers and jankies.  I feels safer already.  Cuz we all know how safe the po po make us feel on a day-to-day basis.

But the cameras that Zhang manufactures are only part of the massive experiment in population control that is under way here. “The big picture,” Zhang tells me in his office at the factory, “is integration.” That means linking cameras with other forms of surveillance: the Internet, phones, facial-recognition software and GPS monitoring.

yayyyy -- even googles watching us, yayyyyy...

yayyyy -- even google's watching us, yayyyyy...

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

wha--?  whos dare?

am eye on camera? ah feels laik such a celebrity!

Putting it to the Test.  (AUUUGH!  TESTS!!!) CASE STUDY:

In 2005, by the government’s own measure, there were at least 87,000 “mass incidents” — governmentspeak for large-scale protests or riots.

This increased unrest — a process aided by access to cellphones and the Internet — represents more than a security problem for the leaders in Beijing. It threatens their whole model of command-and-control capitalism. China’s rapid economic growth has relied on the ability of its rulers to raze villages and move mountains to make way for the latest factory towns and shopping malls. If the people living on those mountains use blogs and text messaging to launch a mountain-people’s-rights uprising with each new project, and if they link up with similar uprisings in other parts of the country, China’s dizzying expansion could grind to a halt.

At the same time, the success of China’s ravenous development creates its own challenges. Every rural village that is successfully razed to make way for a new project creates more displaced people who join the ranks of the roughly 130 million migrants roaming the country looking for work. By 2025, it is projected that this “floating” population will swell to more than 350 million. Many will end up in cities like Shenzhen, which is already home to 7 million migrant laborers.

With its militant protests and mobile population, China confronts a fundamental challenge. How can it maintain a system based on two dramatically unequal categories of people: the winners, who get the condos and cars, and the losers, who do the heavy labor and are denied those benefits? More urgently, how can it do this when information technology threatens to link the losers together into a movement so large it could easily overwhelm the country’s elites?

The answer is Golden Shield. When Tibet erupted in protests recently, the surveillance system was thrown into its first live test, with every supposedly liberating tool of the Information Age — cellphones, satellite television, the Internet — transformed into a method of repression and control. As soon as the protests gathered steam, China reinforced its Great Firewall, blocking its citizens from accessing dozens of foreign news outlets. In some parts of Tibet, Internet access was shut down altogether. Many people trying to phone friends and family found that their calls were blocked, and cellphones in Lhasa were blitzed with text messages from the police: “Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumors that would upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal behavior that could damage social stability.”

buh... yeah.

buh... yeah.

During the Lhasa riots, police on the scene augmented the footage from the CCTVs with their own video cameras, choosing to film — rather than stop — the violence,

INSERTION: buh… can anyone say L.A. Riots???  Cuz, ya know, those Beverly Hills hotels were at a much higher threat than them liquor stores AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL.

…which left 19 dead. The police then quickly cut together the surveillance shots that made the Tibetans look most vicious — beating Chinese bystanders, torching shops, ripping metal sheeting off banks — and created a kind of copumentary: Tibetans Gone Wild. These weren’t the celestial beings in flowing robes the Beastie Boys and Richard Gere had told us about. They were angry young men, wielding sticks and long knives. They looked ugly, brutal, tribal. On Chinese state TV, this footage played around the clock.

The police also used the surveillance footage to extract mug shots of the demonstrators and rioters. Photos of the 21 “most wanted” Tibetans, many taken from that distinctive “streetlamp” view of the domed cameras, were immediately circulated to all of China’s major news portals, which obediently posted them to help out with the manhunt. The Internet became the most powerful police tool. Within days, several of the men on the posters were in custody, along with hundreds of others.

...among other things.  THINGS!

...among other things. THINGS!

In Guangzhou, an hour and a half by train from Shenzhen, Yao Ruoguang is preparing for a major test of his own. “It’s called the 10-million-faces test,” he tells me.

When I meet Yao at his corporate headquarters, he is feeling confident about how his company will perform in the test. His secret weapon is that he will be using facial-recognition software purchased from L-1 Identity Solutions, a major U.S. defense contractor that produces passports and biometric security systems for the U.S. government.

theyre alive!  aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!  and not with the sound of music!

they're alive! aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! and not with the sound of music!

To show how well it works, Yao demonstrates on himself. Using a camera attached to his laptop, he snaps a picture of his own face, round and boyish for its 54 years. Then he uploads it onto the company’s proprietary Website, built with L-1 software. With the cursor, he marks his own eyes with two green plus signs, helping the system to measure the distance between his features, a distinctive aspect of our faces that does not change with disguises or even surgery. The first step is to “capture the image,” Yao explains. Next is “finding the face.”

He presses APPLY, telling the program to match the new face with photos of the same person in the company’s database of 600,000 faces. Instantly, multiple photos of Yao appear, including one taken 19 years earlier — proof that the technology can “find a face” even when the face has changed significantly with time.

“It took 1.1 milliseconds!” Yao exclaims. “Yeah, that’s me!”

Ya see, this started as a Facebook/Flickr/juss-4-fun kinder thing… STARTED, being the operative word here.

Like many other security executives I interviewed in China, Yao denies that a primary use of the technology he is selling is to hunt down political activists. “Ninety-five percent,” he insists, “is just for regular safety.” He has, he admits, been visited by government spies, whom he describes as “the internal-security people.” They came with grainy pictures, shot from far away or through keyhole cameras, of “some protesters, some dissidents.” They wanted to know if Yao’s facial-recognition software could help identify the people in the photos. Yao was sorry to disappoint them. “Honestly, the technology so far still can’t meet their needs,” he says. “The photos that they show us were just too blurry.” That is rapidly changing, of course, thanks to the spread of high-resolution CCTVs. Yet Yao insists that the government’s goal is not repression: “If you’re a [political] organizer, they want to know your motive,” he says. “So they take the picture, give the photo, so at least they can find out who that person is.”

Hm.

You have probably never heard of L-1, but there is every chance that it has heard of you. Few companies have collected as much sensitive information about U.S. citizens and visitors to America as L-1: It boasts a database of 60 million records, and it “captures” more than a million new fingerprints every year. Here is a small sample of what the company does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.”

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

is face stalking ze wave of the future?

Yao, for his part, knows all about the U.S. export controls on police equipment to China. He tells me that L-1’s electronic fingerprinting tools are “banned from entering China” due to U.S. concerns that they will be used to “catch the political criminals, you know, the dissidents, more easily.” He thinks he and L-1 have found a legal loophole, however. While fingerprinting technology appears on the Commerce Department’s list of banned products, there is no explicit mention of “face prints” — likely because the idea was still in the realm of science fiction when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place. As far as Yao is concerned, that omission means that L-1 can legally supply its facial-recognition software for use by the Chinese government.

FACE PRINTS.  Not fingerprints, but FACEPRINTS.  For the paranoid, BobbLebot recommends deletion of Facebook accounts.  DELETION.

Empowered by the Patriot Act, many of the big dreams hatched by men like Atick have already been put into practice at home. New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all experimenting with linking surveillance cameras into a single citywide network. Police use of surveillance cameras at peaceful demonstrations is now routine, and the images collected can be mined for “face prints,” then cross-checked with ever-expanding photo databases. Although Total Information Awareness was scrapped after the plans became public, large pieces of the project continue, with private data-mining companies collecting unprecedented amounts of information about everything from Web browsing to car rentals, and selling it to the government.

What is most disconcerting about China’s surveillance state is how familiar it all feels. When I check into the Sheraton in Shenzhen, for instance, it looks like any other high-end hotel chain — only the lobby is a little more modern and the cheerful clerk doesn’t just check my passport but takes a scan of it.

“Are you making a copy?” I ask.

“No, no,” he responds helpfully. “We’re just sending a copy to the police.”

Up in my room, the Website that pops up on my laptop looks like every other Net portal at a hotel — only it won’t let me access human-rights and labor Websites that I know are working fine. The TV gets CNN International — only with strange edits and obviously censored blackouts. My cellphone picks up a strong signal for the China Mobile network. A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that “we not only know who you are, we also know where you are.” Asked about customer privacy, he replied that his company only gives “this kind of data to government authorities” — pretty much the same answer I got from the clerk at the front desk.

yay!  creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me.  yay!

yay! creepy White dude with a nanny goatee is watching me. yay!

When I leave China, I feel a powerful relief: I have escaped. I am home safe. But the feeling starts to fade as soon as I get to the customs line at JFK, watching hundreds of visitors line up to have their pictures taken and fingers scanned. In the terminal, someone hands me a brochure for “Fly Clear.” All I need to do is have my fingerprints and irises scanned, and I can get a Clear card with a biometric chip that will let me sail through security. Later, I look it up: The company providing the technology is L-1.

Creepy!

Oy(L).  This one was a doozy, floozies!  BobbLebot is EXHAUSTIMICATED.  But basically recommends the watching of Death Note.  (Please watched the subbed and not dubbed version.  Contact ze BobbLebot if u so desire a copy.)

Police State!  Yay!

Police State! Yay!

The concept behind the show is as such: bored, overachieving high school team fulfilling the American Japanese Dream comes across a Death God’s notebook.  Basically, he has the power to kill anybody under any circumstances at any time.  Under his possession, he uses the Death Note to kill murderers, and later, serious criminals.  In — literally — killing the crime by putting the world under surveillance (he checks out murder convictions via the newsfeed), he is trying to build a New World Order that is devoid of criminal behavior.

It is this idea of controlling crime through policing the state, by putting everyone under surveillance so that they begin to police themselves.  The reasoning behind such measures is, “Well… if you’re not a criminal, you have nothing to worry about.”

But who defines the criminality of a human being, and what’s the sentence befitting the crime?  For example, a dissenter of the state is viewed as an enemy of the state.  A criminal.  Looking at that word, “dissenter” — so anyone who voices dissent AGAINST the state, who disagrees with the state, is, by definition, a criminal.

In allowing the state to hold God-like power in the surveillance of its people, and subsequently, allowing the state to hold a God-like power in breaking down communications to whatever it deems as a threat, then what is to stop the state from believing that it is, essentially, God?

July 16, 2008

Poll Finds Obama’s Run Isn’t Closing Divide on Race

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Race — disciplepete @ 9:17 am

NYT:

Americans are sharply divided by race heading into the first election in which an African-American will be a major-party presidential nominee, with blacks and whites holding vastly different views of Senator Barack Obama, the state of race relations and how black Americans are treated by society, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The results of the poll, conducted against the backdrop of a campaign in which race has been a constant if not always overt issue, suggested that Mr. Obama’s candidacy, while generating high levels of enthusiasm among black voters, is not seen by them as evidence of significant improvement in race relations…

More than 80 percent of black voters said they had a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama; about 30 percent of white voters said they had a favorable opinion of him.

Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites. Four in 10 blacks say that there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than 2 in 10 whites say the same thing…

As it was eight years ago, few Americans have regular contact with people of other races, and few say their own workplaces or their own neighborhoods are integrated. 

The article’s a good read, check it out.

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