Through The Static

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?

May 28, 2008

New York to Back Same-Sex Unions From Elsewhere

Filed under: Culture,Legislation,Politics,Rights — disciplepete @ 11:38 pm

More news on the same-sex marriage front…NYT:

ALBANY – Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”…

…Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage, while others, including New Jersey and Vermont, allow civil unions. Forty-one states have laws limiting marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Legal experts said Mr. Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.

Do whites need training before parenting black children?

Filed under: Culture,It's Too Punny!,Legislation,Race,Rights — disciplepete @ 4:57 pm

Article about interracial adoption…discuss amongst yourselves. CNN:

NEW YORK (AP)Several leading child welfare groups Tuesday urged an overhaul of federal laws dealing with transracial adoption, arguing that black children in foster care are ill-served by a “colorblind” approach meant to encourage their adoption by white families….

…At issue is the 1994 Multi-Ethnic Placement Act — and revisions made to it in 1996 — governing the adoption of children from foster care.

One part of the law directs state agencies to recruit more adoptive parents of the same race as the children. The new report says this provision hasn’t been adequately enforced and calls for better funded efforts to recruit minority parents.

The more contentious part of the legislation prohibits race from being taken into consideration in most decisions about adoption from foster care. For example, white parents seeking to adopt a black child cannot be required to undergo race-oriented training that differs in any way from training that all prospective adoptive parents receive.

A key recommendation in the new report calls for amending the law so race could be considered as a factor in selecting parents for children from foster care. The change also would allow race-oriented pre-adoption training…

At the heart of the debate is the fact that the foster care system has a disproportionately high number of black children, and on average they languish there nine months longer than white children before moving to permanent homes. The latest federal figures showed that 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care were black in 2006, compared with 15 percent of all U.S. children.

Of the black children adopted out of foster care, about 20 percent are adopted by white families. The Donaldson report said current federal law, by stressing color blindness, deters child welfare agencies from assessing families’ readiness to adopt transracially or preparing them for the distinctive challenges they might face.

“There is a higher rate of problems in minority foster children adopted transracially than in-race,” said the report. “All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage.”

There’s plenty more in that article that you can go ahead and check out on your own. Opinions, anyone?

May 23, 2008

DON’T STOP — BULLY-eve-ing!

Okay, so the title of this post is a bit misleading, for I DO, in fact, what people TO stop bully-eve-ing. But I am quite tired this morning for no particularly particular reason, and hence the drought of clever title-age. If that even makes any sense.

So I saw this article on bullying, which implies it’s on the rise in schools, kinda alarmist, but it did shy away from blaming school violence on the media. It shifts the blame, instead, on a home life that doesn’t inculcate its children with adequate social skills and ties the solution to this “problem” to bringing social skills education to schools — though it fails to describe what this programming entails or how effective it really is. Anyway, here’s some snippets to see if it gives you anything – brought to you by — ze AlterNets:

Dealing with the School Bully Epidemic

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few weeks, you have no doubt been bombarded with the horrific images of the recent rash of violent school-based incidents. Teens luring a cheerleader classmate to a home and beating her repeatedly while the video camera rolls; a teacher being assaulted in her classroom by students; a high-schooler throwing a metal chair at another in class knocking the victim unconscious; a 13-year middle schooler who admits that he planned to shoot up his school because he was being bullied.

::raises hand::

ze bobblebot has been living in a cave. A dark, dark cave.

::covers face with hands::

GAHHH, DON’T LOOK AT ME! IT HURTS!

What’s wrong with this picture?

We as a country spend billions of dollars annually on anti-bullying programs in our schools, yet the incidents not only continue, they appear to be getting worse in severity and frequency, and occur in increasingly-younger students. Today, our kids stand a one-in-four chance of becoming victims of some form of school-based violence before they reach high school. News flash: what we’re doing isn’t working!

Yay! An actual statistic! Though we know not where it comes from. Hmmm… 1 in 4. You know those stats match the chances of rape at UC Santa Barbara? Just a random fact.

But newsflash: we spend billions of dollars on anti-bullying programs in our schools? Where were THEY when I was in middle school??? Not that ze bobblebot missed out on anything, since apparently they’re not WORKING, and they’re not WORKING because they are BROKEN and they are BROKEN because something is WRONG…with ze picture.

So, the knee-jerk reaction is to play the blame game: it’s YouTube, it’s the Internet, it’s broken homes, it’s our global lifestyle. But, blaming isn’t fixing. We have to accept that instead of trying to minimize or manage the existing problem of bullying and school-based violence, we have to focus on preventing it in the first place. Today’s children are just not coming into school — into life — equipped with adequate social skills and character development that helps them understand that this kind of behavior is simply not OK. They are not taught to respect and value differences among people, in opinions, in actions. “It’s all about me!” is the mantra of many of our youth today, and the behavior we see splattered all over the ‘net is the result.

Well here’s a little interesting psychoanalysis. We certainly are a part of generation ME — though, I wouldn’t say social skills have gone totally down the drain. I will say, however, people-to-people or direct-line-of-communication skills appears to be suffering a bit. But whatever pockets of socialization have broken down have been filled with texting, facebooking, blogging, and the like. It’s a different form of social communication, but communication nonetheless, and a whole new set of social skills… that perhaps maybe the bobblebot isn’t too fond of (CALL ME, JERKFACE! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE I RUV YOU!!! ::shakes fist:: ) but there isn’t a lack of socialization.

What is “character-building” btw, omg, brb, lol, insert-emoticon? This question has ze bobblebot’s bull(y)-sh*t sensors up and running.

People may argue that social skills education belongs in the home, not in the schools, and I’d be the first to agree. But, our schools have become a war zone, where teachers spend more time disciplining students and trying to keep order than they do teaching!

Okay, yeppers, there’s some of that OH-GAWD-SAVE-THE-CHILDREN language going on up in here, but what interests me is this framing: Our Schools Have Become a War Zone. WHAT has become a war zone? The SCHOOLS. Okay, I’m listening, I’m listening…

The good news is that there is a better way.

Really?

::grabs credit card and waits for the toll-free number::

Social skills education works, when properly implemented.

So does a tree branch to the back of your legs when you’re 7, but some social workers aren’t too fond of that one, either.

::SIGH::

Okay, okay, I’m listening. What is this social skills education you speak of?

The good news is that there is a better way. Social skills education works, when properly implemented. Bullying is not just reduced — it’s eliminated. Not because there are more “enforcers” around, in the form of extra administrators, counselors, or police, but because the students won’t stand for it. A comprehensive social skills program, integrated into the core curriculum, can restore order, sanity, and productivity to the schools. It raises student and teacher morale — it even contributes to better test scores. It helps produce not only good students, but good people.

Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric — dudes, rhetoric is MY (unpaid) JOB! Where are the stats (as much as I distrust statistical evidence), where is the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that bullying is reduced. What EXACTLY is social skills education? All I know is what it supposedly DOES (restores order, sanity, and productivity while raising morale and better test scores while baking you a plate o warm, Toll House cookies), but not what it IS.

What, exactly, allows for them to make the connection between higher test scores and social skills programming? WHATEVER. What concerns me are the effects that we’re supposed to desire from this type of programming: ORDER, SANITY, PRODUCTIVITY.

We need to keep this well-oiled machine up and running! Especially when we’re short on oil. Sorry, bobblebot’s going on tangentials again.

How many more of our kids must be intimidated, hurt, or killed before it becomes important enough to do something about instead of just talk about it around the water cooler the next morning? Our children deserve to feel safe, to feel valued when they leave our homes to go to school. We as parents and as taxpayers must insist that the increasing cycle of school violence be stopped.

Instead of just shaking our heads and saying what a shame it all is, let’s ask ourselves the tough questions about why it happened, and actually be willing to be honest with the answer. Then we can start doing something to fix it.

Ahhhhhrgh. I need to post up an excerpt about the state of Holiness our “children” have been anointed with by Lee Edelmann. (one n or 2?) ANYWHO, another post, another time, folks!

As you can tell, I’m not really feeling this whole PROTECT OUR CHILDREN schpiel tugging away at ze heartstrings. Save it for an ABC Family After School Special, puh-LEEZ, sheez!

Okay, IS bullying on the rise? Because as far as I know, it’s been around for a while — and not just in America. It’s been a probs in Southie Korea and is known as ijime in Japan. BTW — a gREAT drama to watch would be GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka — kyaaaaaaaaaa! It’s awesome! And Onizuka sensei is, like, the SAXIEST virgin arrive! Ahhhh!

great teacher onizuka

though ze bobblebot would highly recommend the live-action drama in lieu of the movie or anime. FOR SERIOUS.

Anyway, back to bullying and blaming it on culture, on the home, on the lack of social skills in “today’s generation” — and perhaps it is a result of ALL THESE THINGS interacting with one another — but is it also possible that bullying is a phenomenon that is built into the very structure of the school system?

A school is an institution that’s supposed to be educating students (though THAT assessment could be up for debate), but it’s also a system that works to police our children, isn’t it? Administrators, counselors, faculty members and the like are just as invested in creating an understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

No facial piercings, no punky-colored hair dye, uniforms, skirts have to be of a certain length, you can eat your trans-fat laden snack we sold to you HERE, but not over THERE, even though no one’s hanging out over there, hey — you, yeah, you, what are you doing, can you open up your backpack? Yeah, thanks. No, I don’t care who started it, both of you will cooperate with your friendly neighborhood officers. Pens down — I said PENS DOWN — ten points off your final exam.

Yeah — and since when were cops an integral staple OF our schools?

I dunno about y’all, but since graduating from Rosemont Middle School, a set of 8-foot-high steel bars have been erected around the perimeter, supposedly to keep our students “safe”, but from the outside, it looks like a really sad cage, keeping the students from escaping from all that “safety.”

Let’s say a school is an institution of edumacation. But it’s also just as much a tool for behavioral conditioning. And in tandem with a hormonally raging teen who’s got its own sh*t to deal with in and outside the home, there’s school to deal with as well. The enforcement of behavioral bureaucracy. So how do you THINK this repression is going to manifest in the publicly-funded corridors of ORDER and PRODUCTIVITY?

Okay, it’s official: the bobblebot is now speaking babblebot.

::wires fried — and crispy!::

May 19, 2008

Heter – o – Homo — Marriage: Is This What We Want, What We Really, Really Want?

Some of our dear readers might see this posting as: “RoooZERS! HeL-LO, this, is, like, soooooooo 3 days ago!” but I felt like I needed to really sit and process this “victory” while recovering from that which is known as FINALS/DEATH.

shimizu

+ jolie = Oh, What Coulda BEEN! Right.

Do I think there is something inherently WRONG with the concept of marriage, of two people being committed to each other, faithful to each other FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?!!!

GASP, GASP, GASP…!

buh…no?

Look, marriage ain’t perfect, but it does become a sticky issue once it has become a legal institution that is on the receiving end of certain benefits liiiiiike creating a “family partnership” under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members, being entitled to inherit at least summa yo spouse’s estate (RIPieces, Anna Nicole!), and receiving social security, medicare, or disability benefits for your spouses. In other words — MO-NAY! That and a bunch o coolio stuff, like renewing leases for spouses, choosing whether or not to keep em plugged into machines (life support), or moving into “family only zones.”

At the same time, WHY MARRIAGE? Isn’t this a little archaic, to still distribute financial benefits for only those who uphold good ole Christian, Amurrican values? (And yes, marriage is a rittle monogamous phenomenon that does not find its roots in Christianity, but the instiutionalization of marriage by the US government was partially motivated over upholding Judeo Christian practices and codes of “morality,” which kinda makes you question how secular the US of A is sometimes… I mean, REALLY.)

I mean, couldn’t you just pick a friend? A special, recial friend?

But that would be MADNESS, sir BobbleBot!

Maybe so, but getting back to my original point (I’m sure I had one) is — IS MARRIAGE WHAT WE REALLY WANT and why? I mean, looking how the recent ruling in California as a victory, what is the language used in deeming this as such?

ellen portia

Oh, what beautiful blue-eyed, yellow-haired children they shall have!

Let’s take a look at one of the many Victory Jigs over the media, as reported by New American MediaGay Couples Rejoice Over Supreme Court Ruling:

SAN FRANCISCO—Since 10 a.m. yesterday morning, when the California Supreme Court released its decision that same-sex couples could legally marry in the state, a sense of jubilation has filled the air. The nearly 4,000 gay and lesbian couples who were married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 have been on an emotional rollercoaster ride for the past several years—they went from wedded bliss to seeing their unions crushed by the rulings of lower courts. And it appears that their marriages are now once again legitimate in the eyes of the law.

Sounds great, so far, don’t it? Diff Sex couples and Same Sex couples shall probably both be entitled to the same benefits in ze state of California. (West Coast is dey Best Coast!)

Pauline Togawa-Guillermo and her partner of seven years, Jill, are one of those couples. They stood in the long line outside City Hall on Feb. 16, 2004, a damp and dreary day, to get their marriage license. They’d married each other several years earlier, in a Buddhist ceremony attended by hundreds of friends. But when the city’s then-new mayor stoked national controversy by ordering the county clerk to issue the licenses for same-sex couples, Togawa-Guillermo sensed an opportunity that she had to take. “It was a magical moment,” she recalls. “We made so many friends in that line—friendships that carried us through these long four years.”

Oh, crap. Here comes the human interest side of the story, the putting that “human face” on this issue. Not that the BobbLeBot is not in touch with its emotions, but it doesn’t like being EMOTIONALLY manipulated into favoring a specific perception.

Unless this emotional manipulation comes as a packaged deal along with a bussel of baby bunnies and roneLy puppies. RONELY PUPPIES!

seal pup yorkie BUNNIES

seal puppies are still puppies!

::runs towards them with outstretched arms::

Buuuuuut — I don’t see that here. No bunnies hopping around or baby dogs doing their bidness.

buddhist wedding + magically delicious

All I see is the Buddhist ceremony, the making of friends, and a “magical moment.” MAGICAL, I tell you! I’m not so sure if the BobbLeBot finds this story so magically dericious.

Shortly after the ceremony, however, the newlyweds received word that their marriage, along with thousands of others, would not be recognized because of rulings by lower courts. Togawa-Guillermo and her partner were already in the process of building their lives together, and the news, she says, was “shattering.”

“We were able to change our drivers’ licenses and social security cards, but the name change request was rescinded. The ruling came down, saying that our marriage was not legal, that our marriage certificate could not be used. One day we were legal, and within 24 hours we were living in sin.”

Shattering. They were SHATTERED, people! To PIECES! Ew, ew, more romantical language, and EW. “One day we were legal, and within 24 hours we were living in sin.”

SIN

Okay, drivers’ licenses and social security cards I get. I sooooooooooooo get. Not veree sexy, by any means. I mean, it’s a pain in the arse to stand in line and be shuttled from one to another in a building full of people in horribly foul moods. So THAT sucked. But “living in sin.”

oh, SIN

To be all technical about this, wouldn’t it be “living in sin” if, say, the marriage weren’t recognized in the “eyes of God” ?

::trying not to roll eyes, esp when couple had a BUDDHIST ceremony to tie ze knot::

Does Nation State = God?

So no, don’t have too much patience for the morality issue or the denial of the state of non-sin, since I highly doubt the US government can legally hold power over the status of your soul and karmic bank account. As much as I’m sure it would really, REALLY like to.

Come on, peoples! Let’s get down to IT!

“Marriage dignifies the couple and the child,” she explains. “When our daughter interacts with peers, she’s viewed as the child from a family that’s in limbo. She’s been interacting with peers whose families are recognized as a unit…the ramifications for our children are huge.”

Okay, lesbian-couple-formerly-living-in-sin-but-married-by-Buddha, you are killing me here. KILLING ME!

What, exactly, is killing the BobbLeBot, pray tell? It’s not just their line of argument, but the ideological structure they are buying into in order to justify the legalization of same-sex marriage. Yes, I can recognize that American culture can be, especially in really conservative areas, extremely judgmental of unmarried couples living under the same roof — “God”-forbid — parenting a bevy of children.

Basically, they view being a couple that is viewed as legitimately married by the government as the crux of their dilemma. They want their “dignity” and they can’t have it without the blessing of Mom and Dad God the US Government. Without governmental recognition, their child is viewed as being in a state of “limbo,” as coming from an unstable family background. They want their child to be viewed as “coming from” a stable unit, and that unit isn’t stable until it is recognized by a government that ideologically enforces Judeo Christian heteronormative values into the very fabric of our culture, our perceptions of what is “dignified”, and our legal system.

A marriage should be a SINGLE UNIT of 2 PEOPLE, dammit! Preferably recognized by the eyes of “God”. And a lot of same sex couples agree.

Welcome to HomoNormativity.

homonorms

We heard a lot about heteronormativity — not heard, but LIVE, actually, while having it rammed down our throats, whatevs, I GET it. But what IS homonormativity, pray tell?

According to Lisa Duggan (some famous ramous academic/activist involved in ze politics of sexuality and gender), it’s “a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them.”

gay cake

In other words, homonormativity doesn’t exactly resist or call heteronormativity (2 people, one man and one woman and 2.5 children are the IDEAL AMERICAN COUPLE) out on its bullsh*t. In fact, homonormativity BUYS into the culture of that white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and getting registered at Williams and Sonoma. In BUYING into it, it supports and JUSTIFIES the privileges of heteronormativity.

Look, we all buy into bullsh*T. Wanna hear mine? I watch ANTM. THAT’S RIGHT, people!!! I watch America’s Next Top Model and totally thought Anya and Fathima were ROBBED!!!

Still, I’m not gonna vote to make it a requirement to watch every episode of ANTM every Wednesday on the CW at 8PM/9PM Central in order to be eligible for a tax exemptions on magazine and cosmetics purchases. I’m not for giving health benefits to the people who watch it. It’s a load of interesting, pretty-pretty crap that the dumb/13-year-old and elitist/academic sides of me watch every other week on youtube.

murdaaaaah

ANYWAY, I super found the above linked article helpful, and if you’re interested in it, you should totally read it, but here’s a few snippets to clarify:

For many, such articulations of gay and lesbian identity in the public sphere provide evidence of true social and political progress. Yet in the past decade, some radical activists and scholars have cited such developments not as progressive signs of liberation but as reactionary responses linked directly to the privatizing imperatives of a powerful, ascendant brand of neoliberal politics that coalesced in the 1990s.

Can I get a WhUT-WHUT from the fallout of multiculturalism? Ah, neoLiberalism! There you are again, old friend! (buy RED! BUY IiiiiIT! ::shakes fist:: ) What — eating at Panda Express doesn’t liberate us from racism? What — watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy doesn’t fight our internalized homophobia? ::looks around:: WHAT?!

In accordance with this new homonormativity, prominent lesbian and gay rights organizations increasingly embrace agendas that vie for acceptance within contemporary economic and political systems, thereby abandoning their earlier commitments to economic redistribution and protecting sexual freedoms. This shift has made strange bedfellows out of lesbian and gay rights organizations and social conservatives: both endorse normative and family-oriented formations associated with domestic partnership, adoption, and gender-normative social roles; both tend to marginalize those who challenge serial monogamy and those – including transgender, bisexual, pansexual, and intersex constituencies – who feel oppressed by a binary gender or sex system. Moreover, because of its economic base in the neoliberal philosophy of consumer rights rather than that of citizen rights, the politics of homonormativity exercises an influence beyond U.S. borders, through gay and lesbian tourism, the global proliferation of gay and lesbian-themed U.S. cultural productions, and economic and political interventions that claim to make “gay rights” a global issue.

So the rest of this article/essay is super coolio, so yesh, yesh, read it if your brain can handle more brilliance. I mean, the BobbLeBot DOES tend to boggle the braiiiiiiiiiiiin…

What is a “right” anyway? And it bothers me that the issue of same-sex/gay/whatever-else-ya-wanna-call-it marriage upholds and reinforces the heteronormative structures of gender that oppressed the Queer, LBGTI community to begin with. THE OPPRESSED BECOMING THE OPPRESSORS, THE SELF-POLICING OF IDENTITY POLITICS!

BALTAR

Baltar… LIVES!

HeLLo — this is TOTALLY like Season 2.5 of BattleStar Galactica with the human police working in tandem with the CyLons to oppress (but really “liberate” in their frakked up minds) their fellow peoples! Sorry if I ruined that for some BSG fans. Um. It was allll gonna come out anyway.

So WHAT is my issue? Not really MARRIAGE (I mean, if you want to pick one, singular human being/animal/CyLon and commit to spend the REST OF YOUR LIFE with it, then that’s your funeral decision) or that now that Buddhist-ceremony-same-sex-formerly-living-in-“sin” couple are now entitled to the same benefits as heterosexed legally married couples.

SIN! + buddha!

It’s the whole buying into and supporting a system that kind of worked to oppress you, settling for a seat at the lunch counter as-long-as-you-keep-quiet in lieu of destroying that institution that persecuted you in the first place. You’re still on a leash and your value as a human being is still controlled and dictated by a government and culture that still doesn’t completely accept you with open arms. Because somewhere, deep down in the root of this acceptance of negotiated legalities, in these conditioned settlements of “rights” is a seed, a root of internalized self hate.

Colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia and all other various forms of oppression cut DEEP, peoples. Real DEEP.

I guess the question is — is this REALLY a victory? You see why the bobblebot is conflicted on this issue? Hence, cannot stand and celebrate at the par-tay, but will stand in weirdly-delineated space of solidarity.

When the news of the court’s decision broke, multitudes of gay and lesbian couples crowded the street outside the San Francisco courthouse, braving the sweltering, 90-degree heat to celebrate. Togawa-Guillermo was no exception. “My whole being was filled with euphoria,” she says. “And shortly after that, there was a sense of peace—that this was right. The court gave us a sense of dignity, which had been taken away from us. Fairness and social justice have been achieved.”

Oh, dear. Oh, DEER! Oh — Bambi.

ccaaaaaaaaaake

homonormativity is magically dericious.

May 17, 2008

US House passes Iraq pullout plan

Filed under: Government,Legislation,Politics,World News — disciplepete @ 11:26 am

The House passed a bill on Thursday that would have U.S. troops out of Iraq by December 2009. But don’t count on it happening. From Al Jazeera:

The measure, passed by the Democratic controlled House on Thursday, would also require that soldiers spend only one year in Iraq and then get at least one year at home.

However the vote, won by 227 to 196 in the House, is largely symbolic as it will most likely be defeated once it passes to the US senate.

George Bush, the US president, has vowed to veto any measure that sets a timeline to withdraw US troops from Iraq as part of any funding bill, having done so once last year…

…the Democrats are well short of the two-thirds majorities needed in the House or the senate to overturn a Bush veto in order to change the administration’s Iraq war policy.

 

May 16, 2008

Battle Against Gay Marriage to Begin

Filed under: Culture,Government,Legislation,Rights,Uncategorized,Wake Up Call — disciplepete @ 2:51 pm

So now that the California Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, we can expect the political fight against it to begin, as this article from the San Jose Merucry discusses:

It looks very likely conservative groups will succeed in putting a constitutional amendment before California voters in November to overturn the court’s decision…

Meanwhile, the California electorate is growing more Democratic and, polls show, more comfortable with the idea that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. A June 2007 survey of likely voters by the Public Policy Institute of California found gay marriage losing, but by a slim 48 percent to 46 percent. In 2000, the margin was 55 percent to 38 percent.

Elsewhere, others suggest, the re-emergence of gay marriage on the national stage could inflame conservatives and convince them to finally get fully behind Republican presidential candidate John McCain, for whom they’ve shown only lukewarm support.

So according to the survey mentioned in the article, it should be a close vote if the gay marriage/constitutional amendment issue is decided on by voters this November. My feeling is that if you are a Californian who supports the rights of gays to marry, you better get to the polls, because I’m sure the opponents will be out in full force.

May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Overturns Gay Marriage Ban

Filed under: Culture,Government,Legislation,Rights — disciplepete @ 9:35 am

NYT:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court has overturned a ban on gay marriage, paving the way for California to become the second state where gay and lesbian residents can marry.

The justices released the 4-3 decision Thursday, saying that domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage in an opinion written by Chief Justice Ron George.

So does that mean that gay marriage is now legal, or are there more hoops to jump through?

April 22, 2008

Congress Near Deal on Genetic Test Bias Bill

Filed under: Health,Legislation,Science — disciplepete @ 2:41 pm

NYT:

Congress is close to an agreement that would clear the way for a bill that would prohibit discrimination by employers and health insurers on the basis of genetic tests.

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who had been almost single-handedly holding up action on the bill, said in an interview Tuesday that most of his concerns had been resolved and predicted that the bill would pass soon.

Proponents say the new law, more than a dozen years in the making, would help usher in an age of genetic medicine, in which DNA tests might help predict if a person is at risk of a disease, in hopes of taking action to prevent it.

Some of the tests already exist, like one for breast cancer risk, and new ones are being introduced almost every month. But backers of the legislation say many people are afraid of taking such tests because they fear the results would be used to deny them employment or health insurance. (article)

March 20, 2008

Seattle Bans Sale Of Bottled Water

Filed under: Government,Health,Legislation — disciplepete @ 3:33 pm

Huffington Post:

First San Francisco banned it. Then Chicago started taxing it. Now, the city of Seattle is taking action against bottled water; last week, Mayor Greg Nickels signed an executive order to stop the city from buying bottled water. That means no more bottled water at city facilities and events, which may sound like a small step, but it’ll make a big difference; last year, the city spent $58,000 on the stuff (and that’s not including the true cost and carbon footprint of bottled water). We’re willing to bet that the city’s taxpayers can probably think of about 58,000 ways to better spend that money. (article)

I’m confused about the bottled water issue. I’ve heard that bottled water is no better than tap water, but I also thought that tap water is worse than bottled water and will give you the cooties etc. So I just don’t know what to believe right now. I’m sticking with purified water as much as I can for now. (Although the Seattle ban seems to be about the environmental effects of bottled water [bottles piling up in landfills] rather than the health effects.)

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