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Current Topic: Security

Musical Threats to The State | Will the Jedi Mind Trick work?
Topic: Security 10:22 pm EDT, Apr 27, 2007

In May, London-based Hip Hop artist M.I.A. revealed that she was denied a visa to come work with American music producers on her next album. News reports indicate that the Sri Lankan-born artist was excluded because government officials concluded that some of her lyrics are overly sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Here is some background on MIA:

Level 2 is a bit thornier. Arular's lyrics don't seem to mean much, but they're catchy as all hell: "Blaze to blaze, galang-a-lang-a-lang-a/Purple haze, galang-a-lang-a-lang," she sings on "Galang," her debut single from last year. You notice a few other catchphrases, too, like "freedom fighter," "Pull up the people/Pull up the poor," and "I got the bombs to make you blow/I got the beats to make you bang." Whatever—none of this means much, in and of itself. Intrigued, you go to her incredibly psychedelic Web site ( and wait for a Flash animation to load. The graphic shown on the screen while you wait is a cute cartoon image of bundled sticks of dynamite, ready to explode. You read her bio and see that she had a rough childhood; she lived in war-torn Sri Lanka as a kid, and her father wasn't around much. He was in the Tamil Tigers, where his nickname was "Arular"—the title of M.I.A.'s album. You don't know much about the Tamil Tigers, besides the fact that they don't seem to be a baseball team, and read on. It looks like she moved to the U.K. with her mother as a refugee a little over 15 years ago. Since then, she's turned her life around, graduating from a top British art school and making a name for herself by playing with loaded images, tearing them out of context and throwing them onto canvases: bright, Warhol-esque screen prints of war and strife, from guns and bombs to tigers.

So is MIA a threat to state security? Somehow, I don't think so.

As far as idealogical slants go, rock n' roll, hiphop, and just about every other form of popular music has been a dangerous threat to the state at one point or another. Not to go into one of those arguments that contains the phrase "slippery slope", but common people.. [ waves his hand ] These are not the threats to the state you are looking for...

Ladies and Gentlemen, just because we killed Mother Russia in the 80's doesn't mean we have to take her place in the uh-oh's...

Musical Threats to The State | Will the Jedi Mind Trick work?

Interview with the UK UFO Hacker
Topic: Security 1:24 am EDT, Apr 24, 2007

"I was charged seven times, with 10 years' imprisonment on each. The most serious accusation was 'bringing down the entire military network of Washington'.

I discovered names and ranks of non-terrestrial officers. They were all very human-like - although I can't remember the details as my hard drive was seized by the police."

Wow. Maybe he can get a GMI (Guilty but Mentally Ill) sentence IF they try him in the US and he loses.

Interview with the UK UFO Hacker

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Sale on Negroponte Move
Topic: Security 9:21 pm EST, Jan  7, 2007

This whole blog is quite interesting. Thanks.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Sale on Negroponte Move

Schneier on Security: Forge Your Own Boarding Pass
Topic: Security 4:15 pm EST, Nov  2, 2006

Soghoian claims that he wanted to demonstrate the vulnerability. You could argue that he went about it in a stupid way, but I don't think what he did is substantively worse than what I wrote in 2003. Or what Schumer described in 2005. Why is it that the person who demonstrates the vulnerability is vilified while the person who describes it is ignored? Or, even worse, the organization that causes it is ignored? Why are we shooting the messenger instead of discussing the problem?

The way to fix it is equally obvious: Verify the accuracy of the boarding passes at the security checkpoints. If passengers had to scan their boarding passes as they went through screening, the computer could verify that the boarding pass already matched to the photo ID also matched the data in the computer. Close the authentication triangle and the vulnerability disappears.

The problem is real, and the Department of Homeland Security and TSA should either fix the security or scrap the system. What we've got now is the worst security system of all: one that annoys everyone who is innocent while failing to catch the guilty.

Bruce Schneier has chimed in on TSAGATE. This essay can be found on his weblog or published in Wired. The message coming out of the security community seems to unanimously contain the same basic ideas: The TSA needs to fix the problem and not shoot the messenger.

Schneier on Security: Forge Your Own Boarding Pass

Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability
Topic: Security 11:13 am EDT, Jun 25, 2005

"Oil prices have reached an unthinkable $150 a barrel. In Philadelphia, Miami and Kansas City, Mo., gas prices reach $5.74 a gallon. Now it takes $121 to fill that midsized SUV.

You get the picture. The scenario is intended to show how vulnerable the U.S. and world economies are because of dependence on oil from places where political instability threatens orderly production and distribution."

Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability

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