Friday, July 29, 2005
Friday Random Ten: The Clean Complex, Dark Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
  1. The Magnetic Fields - "Strange Powers": a track off the 1999 Holiday release, used to fine effect in Jonathan Caouette's lauded low-budget biopic, Tarnation
  2. Devo - "Working In A Coal Mine"
  3. David Bowie - "Blackout"
  4. Eddie Rabbitt - "I Love a Rainy Night"
  5. Le Tigre - "Deceptacon" [QuickTime video]
  6. Low - "Silver Rider"
  7. Brian Eno - Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror - "Among Fields of Crystal"
  8. Sarah Vaughan - "From This Moment On"
  9. The Revolutionaires - A History of Dub: The Golden Age - "Bitter Blood"
  10. Hawkwind - "You Know You're Only Dreaming"

Thursday, July 28, 2005
Big Brother Inside Your Laser Printer 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Psst. Did you know the Gubmint embeds secret computer chips in many laser printers, so authorities can track down exactly which printer a document came from?

No, really:
WASHINGTON--Next time you make a printout from your color laser printer, shine an LED flashlight beam on it and examine it closely with a magnifying glass. You might be able to see the small, scattered yellow dots printed there that could be used to trace the document back to you.

According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.

Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company's laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the "serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots" in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.

"It's a trail back to you, like a license plate," Crean says. [keep reading article in PC World]
The funny thing is, if we heard about the government secretly implanting consumer products with tracking devices in a nation like China, Cuba, or the former Soviet Union, we'd chalk it up to "normal" totalitarian interference. When it's done in the U.S., we rationalize it as an "anti-terrorism measure" or a "security precaution."

Personally, I wouldn't find this story half as sinister if the coding were 'above board': if consumers knew that each printer had a unique signature or embedded serial number that identified each machine's output. Authorities would argue that this secrecy is necessary to prevent subversion of the coding precaution, but I think any counterfeiter or terrorist worth their salt would discover the presence of these mechanisms in one way or another. After all, if the secret encoding is so "secret," why are printer manufacturers and the Secret Service talking to PC World about its existence?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
'Security Theater' : Fearful Minds in Fearful Times 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This news development slipped by my nose, until I read about it on EclecticEveryday - after all, I don't live in New York any more. Riders on the New York City subway system are now subject to random police searches of their bags or parcels prior to entering the turnstiles, a measure adopted after the London subway bombing incidents. Cindy quotes from an article on Manhattan User's Guide by Charlie Suisman, "Fearful Times":
"On Monday, in response to the newly instituted random subway searches, MUG questioned the efficacy of these searches as they are currently set up. It seemed to me that this deployment of resources is largely cosmetic (and terrorism experts I have heard interviewed have said essentially the same thing), designed to make riders feel better. That’s not a bad goal in and of itself, but the benefit of making people feel better now is outweighed, perhaps, by the unease it will have created when, despite this, a bomb goes off...

The [MUG] mail from Monday ran 79 against the searches and four in favor of them. Even if it had been the other way around, I see no harm in asking the question. One reader wrote, "You might have heard in the real press (see www.1010wins.com for polls) that the average New York subway rider sees the searches as positive (which should also make you uneasy about broadcasting your anti-search views to your NYC readership)."

That made me uneasy all right, but not for the reason the author of the email supposed. I was uneasy that the author would think that simply because, even if true, New Yorkers favor the searches, that that is a reason not to point out what seem to me flaws in the logic of those searches...I found this in my email, from [reader] D. Stein: "How dare you question the subway searches???!?!?! You sound completely ignorant and foolish."

I know I blanched, because I felt the blood instantly drain from my face. It's not the second sentence – I'm ignorant and foolish on a daily basis. It was that a fellow New Yorker was so fearful that he was willing to fall into lock-step with authority and was shocked that someone else would not. Isn't asking questions, as Primo Levi learned, one of the fundamental elements of freedom?"
– Charlie Suisman
Chicago's subway riders, thankfully, only have bomb-sniffing dogs and regularly stationed police and private security officers to face - not random searches. However, a single terror-type incident in any American city could up the ante to New York Style stop-and-search surveillance in many urban areas, like Chicago.

As a forethought, I recommend reading FlexYourRights.org's Citizen's Guide to Refusing Subway Searches, a safe and sane list of tips on how to prevent a random subway check from potentially escalating into violence, while preserving your rights against unreasonable searches:
In response to the recent London terror attacks, New York police officers are now conducting random searches of bags and packages brought into the subway.

While Flex Your Rights takes no position on the usefulness of these searches for preventing future attacks, we have serious concerns that this unprecedented territorial expansion of police search powers is doing grave damage to people's understanding of their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In addition, as innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Fortunately, this trend is neither inevitable nor irreversible. In fact, the high-profile public nature of these random subway searches provides freedom-loving citizens with easy and low-risk opportunities to "flex" their Fourth Amendment rights by refusing to be searched.

If you're carrying a bag or package into the subway, here's what you need to know and do in order to safely and intelligently "flex" your rights [keep reading]:
How dare we question the subway searches? We question because simply cranking up surveillance of citizenry rarely leads to real improvements in safety, and because those in authority are known to abuse the "randomness" of "random" searches.

Unless everyone entering the subway system were checked thoroughly with metal and explosive detectors as airline passengers are - an untenable measure in urban mass public transit - surveillance agents must rely solely on their experience, training, and personal discretion in selecting their search marks.

Police experience is valuable, no doubt, but given that hundreds or thousands or individuals pass through any given station during the day, with distractingly high peak densities during risky rush hours, police must focus on the most "suspicious-looking" people carrying packages. Presumptive suspicion, in this case, goes hand-in-hand with profiling by personal appearance and outward behavior.

Consider what happens to public cohesion and sense of place when only certain types of people are selected for random searches: like airports, New York subway stations will become grudgingly-tolerated ethnic profiling zones. In New York's case, I don't believe the actual risk reduction gained by random subway checks will outweigh the loss of civil liberties, and "civic public comfort," so to speak. To law enforcement officials, even a single averted terrorist incident will justify the measures; but at as Charlie Suisman write, consider the unease if a subway bomb goes off despite the measures.

It could easily happen. An innocent but "suspicious-looking" person carrying a backpack or parcel might be searched and detained while a not-so-suspicious-looking terrorist bomber next to them passes unhindered through the turnstiles with a rucksack full of plastique and a heart full of martyrdom.

Above all, we question because we know from our easily forgotten recent history where not questioning potentially leads. For those of you that believe that troubled times call for suspension of civil rights, remember that while our Founding Fathers wrote the constitution before 9/11, they knew firsthand what war can do.

MORE: [UPDATE] The Village Voice has a good piece today (7/28) on the subway searches, "Terror By The Numbers":
"The important thing to understand is that security that moves a threat around is useless. So if we spend billions saving New York City subways and the terrorists go into movie theaters, we have wasted billions of dollars," says Bruce Schneier, a California-based security expert. "Defending the targets is the wrong way to think, because for the terrorist it doesn't matter if he hits the subway or a nightclub or a restaurant or a supermarket or the line at the DMV to renew your driver's license or the Oklahoma City federal building."

Terrorists, however, aren't just trying to kill people. They're trying to scare them. Even if the random searches have a negligible chance of preventing a terrorist attack, they might still help to counter the terrorists' actual mission. As long as most of the public believes—even wrongly—that random searches make them safer, the searches could be a plus.

Schneier calls this "security theater." In the months after 9-11 people were afraid to fly. It was probably an irrational fear, but it was undeniable. So, Schneier says, "National Guard troops in airports with no bullets in their guns was a good idea. The psychological component is very important and shouldn't be minimized." [keep reading]

Bruce Schneier on Searching Bags on Subways
CTA Tattler: Is Chicago Next? and The Legality of Random Searches

Monday, July 25, 2005
Legislating Beauty 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Lauren at Feministe reports that Israel is considering outlawing the employment of fashion models with eating disorders in that country:
"This Sunday, a committee of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, will decide whether to proceed with a bill to compel model agencies to monitor the health and body mass index (the ratio of height to weight) of models. Models would have to undergo regular medical tests to ensure their body mass index (BMI) is 19 or above. The most serious anorexics can have a BMI as low as seven.

If the Knesset passes the bill, [Israeli photographer and model agent Adi] Barkan hopes the effect will be two-fold. First, agencies will be forced to confront a problem they have for long ignored and, second, only "healthy" models will be seen on television, in magazines and on billboards. [keep reading in Guardian UK]
This news is interesting on a number of levels, especially considering the Dove "Real Beauty" ad campaign kerfuffle of late, and the "chicken or egg" question of how super-skinny models became the look du jour in the first place. Did anorexic models become a fashion standard because they represent a more extreme 'eye-catching' version of attractively slender "normal" women, or are women seeking to look like anorexic models because the starved look was spun from whole cloth by the fashion industry - and if so, why? Chicago Tribune staffer Mary Jenkins writes (facetiously, I hope),
See, ads should be about the beautiful people. They should include the unrealistic, the ideal or the unattainable look for which so many people strive. That's why models make so much money. They are freaks -- human anomalies -- who need to be paid to get photographed so we can gawk at them.

I see "real people" all the time. I don't need "real people" to sell me things. I'm a "real person" and I don't want to see me on the side of a bus -- and trust me, in my underwear neither do you.
Don't get me wrong; regardless of whether you like the look of anorexic models (I don't) or believe that this standard of beauty is detrimental to women in general (I do), in our global economy Israel's ban would only drive models with eating disorders and Israel's modeling industry elsewhere. Consider how America's restrictions on stem-cell research - another contentious issue - have impacted that industry. Our laws have done little or nothing to stop stem-cell research; outside the U.S., work on embryonic cells proceeds at an unabated clip in many nations, and the industry and investment money follows. Photographer Barkan writes,
"I reckon that around 30% of models are genetically thin. A few of the rest are reducing their weight through exercise and good diet, but most of the others are reducing their weight artificially by bulimia and drugs," he says, as we sit in a Tel Aviv cafe.

It is easy to cover up the blemishes caused by a poor diet and drug abuse with makeup and image-enhancing software, but after four years, a 24-year old might look 10 years older than she really is, says Barkan. He interrupts to point to a woman walking outside. "Look at how thin she is. She's an Israeli girl, not a Russian girl. [Twenty per cent of Israel's population are of Russian descent.] That's not healthy," he says.

He admits that anorexia can have a multitude of causes but is convinced that the fashion industry can have a major effect on it. "I think 50% of the problem can be dealt with by us. If the fashion stores, food companies and other consumers of model services refuse to employ unhealthy women, that will remove one part of the motivation to reduce weight."
On the one hand, I like to think Israel is making a humane statement by sanctioning the unhealthy practice of models' starving themselves for their work - in the same way that some nations prohibit other dangerous work practices. On the other hand, you'll likely never see coal-dust-blackened faces peering from the pages of Vogue as a standard of beauty.

What's intriguing is that historically, higher weight was considered attractive and desirable for women (and adult men and children), as low body weight often indicated malnutrition or disease - conditions undesirable for fertility and childbearing. It is only in fairly recent human history (now that under-nutrition and many diseases are no longer the problem they were) "fashionable weights" for women have fluctuated wildly, with curvy voluptousness a standard in some decades, pre-pubescent slimness in others - consider the "Flapper Era," supermodel Twiggy in the 1960's, and most recently the "heroin chic" look. However, the "fatter is better" sentiment also sometimes took unhealthy extremes, with 19th Century patent medicines once purporting to make babies "fat and healthy as pigs."

Interestingly, all of the above trends (with the exception of the tight-corset era, where "wasp-sized" waists served to accentuate the hourglass silhouette of large bosoms and hips) the current vogue of large augmented breasts (and lips, to some extent) paired with super-skinny hips and waists has only become desirable or possible in the age of weight-loss drugs and plastic surgery; in nature, the two states (a "starved" body with "obese" breasts) rarely if ever co-exist. Perhaps what we're collectively losing touch with most is our sense of reality; but if so, it likely isn't restricted solely to the realm of beauty.

farkleberries Links du Jour 108 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Blog Spotlight: (The New) Positive Liberty 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Positive Liberty has transformed into a group blog, with Jason Kuznicki sharing space with the likes of Timothy Sandefur (Freespace), Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) and Jonathan Rowe. I've really enjoyed reading their respective individual blogs for some time, so this collaboration is a very exciting development. If you crave smart, insightful posts with an emphasis on intellectual freedom and preserving America's civil liberties, be sure to check it out.

Heck - just bookmark it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005
Calling Chicago Movie Hounds 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Does anyone in town (or out of town, for that matter) happen to know what movie is currently shooting at the Chicago Armory at 53rd and Cottage Grove? There are several nice, lavish trailers and over a dozen crew and equipment trucks, so it looks big-budget. I checked out the City of Chicago Film Office page, but no details on that specific locale (probably for good reason).

UDPATE: Thanks to reader Matt, who tells us it's likely the new Vince Vaughn romantic comedy, "The Break Up." Today, I also spotted three rather old London-style double-decker buses parked along the Cottage Grove shooting location.

Civility, and Silence 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Pres. George W. Bush and Supreme Court nominee John RobertsThis morning, the Trib's screechy headline read "Nomination Vexes Women, Liberals": an irritating, if succinct way to describe the predicted frustration felt by many at John Roberts' SCOTUS nomination. Frankly, I'm less vexed by Roberts' nomination - I'm entirely un-surprised - than by President Bush's unctuous call for "civility" (read: silencing of dissenting opinion) during the confirmation process. When a speaker uses a keyword like "civility" two or three (or was it four, counting "civil"?) times in a short speech, you know there's some serious spinning underway.

Of course, all these calls for a smooth, unruffled "pass" for John Roberts' confirmation hearken back to the failed 1987 nomination of Robert Bork - one of the few SCOTUS nominee rejections in decades. I wasn't observing the details of political news quite so closely back in my teens, but I remember feeling a profound sense of relief at his non-confirmation.

Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has an excellent, timely post today, at first glance a point-for-point response to another blogger's reaction to Ed's "Robert Bork and the Martyr Myth" posting from July 11th. However, it's crucial to reexamine the two-decades old Bork affair today, as Roberts faces his own Supreme Court confirmation. Why? Because Judge Robert Bork's views, unpleasant and antithetical as they were to fundamental American civil liberties, were in plain view. Roberts', for better or worse, are generally not.

Ed writes:
They [Supreme Court nominees] are asking to be given a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court where their decisions will have more of an impact on our lives and our liberty than virtually any other body in the world. Our liberty is in their hands and they have an obligation to tell us what they intend to do with it before we give that power to them. I don't want to hear that the nominee is kind, decent, trustworthy, thrifty and brave. I want to hear what they would do with their almost unbridled power to interpret the Constitution because that document is the backbone of American liberty. [keep reading]
Bork wrote openly and widely about his beliefs, and did not veil his intentions behind a polished veneer of "civility" and the All-American success story. Unlike Bork, Roberts is a relatively young jurist, and one with little precedent history with which the Senate may judge his future actions. Roberts is, in essence, a "black box" Supreme.

If anything, the Senate needs to probe, prod, question and grill this nominee even more than Robert Bork - because this judge of relatively unknown public quantity stands to influence all American's lives - all our lives - for potentially two full generations.

Bork was not a martyr on the liberal altar; the Senate did what they were supposed to do in 1987. I agree with Ed: the Senators did not reject Bork on a whim, but rather, after a long and contentious partisan ideological scuffle, had the cautious forethought to vet (and wisely reject) a pernicious Supreme Court candidate before giving him or her a lifetime key to the ultimate check in our "checks and balances," the final bulwark of the Constitutional rule of law.

It's about informed consent: confirming a Supreme Court justice is akin to our nation getting a tattoo. They can be removed, but only at great pain and expense - so usually you're stuck with them until death do you part.

We, the People, only know Roberts by the company he keeps and the organizations that support him. That said, I honestly can't say I feel even moderately comfortable with a Supreme Court nominee that has Operation Rescue's enthusiastic support:
President George W. Bush has chosen John G. Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor to the US Supreme Court. Operation Rescue supports this selection. Roberts has shown strong conservative credentials with indications that he will not uphold Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that decriminalized abortion. Roberts coauthored a 1990 legal brief that stated, “The court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion … finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution.” “A culture of life can never be built as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
I don't believe for a moment that Roberts will be "Borked" in 2005 America. But we should look closely, very closely, at the direction of the Supreme Court's new "swing vote." If what is meant by "civility" is in actuality "silence," then to Hades with "civility." Senators on both sides of the aisle, please look closely under the hood and kick the tires - then check the exhaust emissions. After all, whoever's in that garage is in for life.

[MORE: Slightly off topic, but if you're looking to read some thoroughly odd stuff have a peek at http://www.tldm.org/news6/homosexuality13.htm, a website where a self-proclaimed prophet/Robert Bork fan club member from Bayside, New York quotes the (mainly anti-gay) revelations Jesus and Mary (and the Saints, oh my!) personally gave her between 1968 to 1995. For emphasis, these "new teachings of Jesus and Mary" are interspersed with Robert Bork quotes and photos.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 107: The "Meat is...Animals!" Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, July 18, 2005
Got Snake? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
What would you do if you found this lovely creature under your bed, in your basement bedroom? He/she was a 6-foot-long, 3-inch-thick "garden snake" my better half's brother found a few nights ago while cleaning his room in Virginia. Snakie apparently wandered in through a small hole in the basement window siding in the laundry room. Bravely, bro-in-law's dad picked up the otherwise harmless (!) snake using only barbecue gloves and took it back outside.

We jest that it's all the horse manure in their backyard garden (which is lovely and verdant as can be) that makes the garden snakes grow so luxuriantly.

Come to think of it, Snakie was probably hours or minutes away from being found in the bed, rather than under it...and I've stayed in that room as a guest.

Friday, July 15, 2005
Friday Random Ten: The Scrubbed Launch/Pop Goes the Loop(s) Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Today's Random Ten is a sugary, spacey blend of techno treats and retro faves, the sole exception being John Hiatt's bouncily ascerbic screw-the-mass-media-overload Luddite anthem from his 1995 CD Walk On, "Shredding the Document." It's ten years old, but lyrically as timely as ever.
  1. John Hiatt - "Shredding the Document"
  2. Armand van Helden feat. Spaldi - "Hear My Name"
  3. S-Express - "Theme from S-Express (ViperXXL remix)"
  4. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "I Love Playin' With Fire (Live in NYC 1982)"
  5. Coldplay - "White Shadows"
  6. Oakenfold - "Starry-Eyed Surprise": this one was featured as the backing track to a soft-drink commercial I saw recently, where volumes of glittering CGI bubbles rise from aluminum cans to encircle iPodded, rollerblading youngsters with clouds of carbonated joy. I suppose it's telling I remembered the song, but not which cola it was shilling.
  7. The Egg - "Wall (Mylo remix)"
  8. Donald Fagen - "New Frontier"
  9. Air - "La Femme d'Argent"
  10. Fine Young Cannibals - "Johnny Come Home"
Back when The Fine Young Cannibals and Donald Fagen were riding the charts, I couldn't stand their music. Every time "She Drives Me Crazy" came on the radio or MTV, I wanted to smash the TV with a baseball bat scream. Now, hearing Roland Gift's voice or Fagen's jazzy Steely Dan-style grooves don't recall teeth-grinding teenage radio malaise, but instead, pleasant summery recollections. What gives? I'll chalk it up as dementia praecox one of the nicer aspects of getting older.

However, just shoot me if I ever look back on Orange Alerts, the War on Terror, or Dubya Days with dumbfounded nostalgic glee. Let's hope that twenty years down the line, we won't have good reason to. Until then, keep the Space Pop coming, and have a great weekend.

UPDATE: that Oakenfold tune was selling Diet Croak™.

Thursday, July 14, 2005
File Under: Terror-Era Fun In The City, Not 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chicago police headquarters lockdown after unknown white powder found in mailroom July 14th 2005, photo CBS2 ChicagoThis morning on my bus ride in to work, I saw several fire engines, police cars - and two or three news vehicles with antenna masts hoisted high - around the Chicago Police headquarters on South Michigan Avenue. Apparently someone sent an envelope containing a "white powder" to an undisclosed recipient at the facility, forcing a lockdown while hazmat crews scrambled to the scene:
(CBS) CHICAGO A criminal investigation is being launched into a threatening letter sent to Chicago Police Headquarters containing a white powdery substance.

The building was closed this morning as hazmat crews investigated the mysterious substance. No one was allowed in or out of the building at 3510 S. Michigan Ave, and all elevators and stairways were shut down. In a news conference held after the building was reopened, Fire Chief Mike Fox said the substance was “not harmful.”

A police officer opened a threatening letter with the unusual substance on the fifth floor and notified others. The letter had already been processed in the ground floor mailroom and sent upstairs to the same floor where Supt. Phil Cline’s office is located.
Between this and the false bomb warnings on the CTA "L" train recently, I'm starting to feel like I'm back at Salmon River Central School in Ft. Covington, NY, where (in the early 1980's) at least a couple of times a year, some meshuggener kid called in a bomb scare forcing evacuation of the entire school complex. Those were the days.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 106: The € Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 105 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, July 07, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 104 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, July 06, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 103 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, July 01, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 102 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink]