The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'paranoia'
Fifty years ago, the governor of Indiana received an obscenity complaint about the (all but incomprehensible) lyrics of a rock'n'roll song, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, which he passed to the FBI. Before they could prosecute those involved, they were faced with the problem of determining what the lyrics (which had been derived from a calypso number from 1957, originally in a cod Caribbean patois, but rendered incomprehensible by the braces worn by the Kingsmen's lead singer) actually meant, and prove that it was actually obscene; and so began an exhaustive investigation, in which the valiant G-men strove, with McCarthyite zeal, to uncover the sinister plot against America's youth by deciphering exactly what kind of filth the lyrics might be:
The subsequent report on the song – unearthed in 1984 by video producer Eric Predoehl – runs for more than 140 pages. The records of the FBI's various attempts to work out the exact kind of obscenities that Louie Louie supposedly contained make for fantastic, demented reading. You can picture agents slowly going nuts as they desperately struggle to pin something, anything, dirty on the lyrics, regardless of whether or not that something makes any sense or actually features in the lyric. "Oh my bed and I lay her there, I meet a rose in her hair," suggested one interpretation. "We'll fuck your girl and by the way," offered another, failing to answer the fairly obvious question this provoked: what, exactly, is by the way? Some of the interpretations were quite lyrical – "Hey Señorita, I'm hot as hell" – although others were not: "Get that broad out of here!"One ad-hoc translator thought it was about masturbation: "Every night and day I play with my thing." Another particularly creative agent seemed to think it centered around the subject of performing cunnilingus on a woman who was menstruating – "She's got a rag on, I'll move above" – which, with the best will in the world, seems a spectacularly improbable topic for any rock band, no matter how raunchy, to be addressing in 1963. Another, more creative still, seems to have actually invented a perversion to fit the garbled vocals: "I felt my bone … ah … in her hair."
In fact, the bureau's persistence says less about the Kingsmen than the era in which it took place. Intriguingly, the concerned letters about Louie Louie and the start of the FBI's investigation coincide with the Beatles' arrival in the US: I Want To Hold Your Hand began its seven-week run at No 1 on 7 February, their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show – watched by 73 million people and considered a seismic event in US pop culture – came two days later. These days, we tend to think of the moptop-era Beatles as uncomplicated, unthreatening and universally adored, but to a certain kind of reactionary mind, the Beatles were anything but uncomplicated and unthreatening. Their very appearance marked them out as unfathomably strange and alien (in one extreme version of this response, far-right British politician John Tyndall, described the Beatles in 1963 as "effeminate oddities … looking for all the world like the members of some primitive African tribe", before accusing them of ushering an era of "weirdness in the male type"). Furthermore, after several years in which rock'n'roll appeared to have been entirely denuded of its provocative power – its initial rawness streamlined and diluted with parent-friendly intimations of pre-rock pop by Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, Bobby Rydell et al – you only had to look at the reaction the Beatles were getting to know that rock'n'roll was suddenly an incredibly potent force once more.The investigation failed to produce anything more than paranoid fancy, but did have the unintended consequence of transforming an incomprehensible, otherwise forgettable rock'n'roll ditty—one which would have almost certainly been swept from history by the tide of Beatlemania months later—into an anthem of pure rock'n'roll rebellion by fiat, a sort of Necronomicon of the moral panics that spanned the gap from the McCarthy Red Scare to the Satanic panic of the Reagan years, its very lack of definition allowing interpreters to read their own demonologies of choice into it. And many, amongst them Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and The Clash, did versions, filling in the blanks with mundane vulgarities of their own devising (and a few cribbed from the FBI report), to varying effects.
A look at a pamphlet prepared by the US Army in 1955, at the height of the Red Scare, and titled How To Spot A Communist:
While a preference for long sentences is common to most Communist writing, a distinct vocabulary provides the more easily recognized feature of the “Communist Language.” Even a superficial reading of an article written by a Communist or a conversation with one will probably reveal the use of some of the following expressions: integrative thinking, vanguard, comrade, hootenanny, chauvinism, book-burning, syncretistic faith, bourgeois-nationalism, jingoism, colonialism, hooliganism, ruling class, progressive, demagogy, dialectical, witch-hunt, reactionary, exploitation, oppressive, materialist.
Rather chillingly, the pamphlet also warned that Communists revealed themselves if and when they talked about “McCarthyism,” “violation of civil rights,” “racial or religious discrimination” or “peace.” In other words, they were guilty if they suggested that the government was overstepping its bounds.
A few verified facts from verifiedfacts.org:
UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT information is ENCOURAGED.
- North Korea has a deal with Youtube-- all videos showing airplane takeoffs in its major airports are deleted within hours of posting.
- Not everyone you see on the street in the UK is strictly human.
- The Feds has been secretly exploring possible applications of poverty for government profit.
- Most members of the Federal Reserve claim to be ordinary country boys; in reality, they hail from Israel, and most have no birth certificates. During Bush's time in office, most major newspapers had a member of the Federal Reserve on staff, responsible for censoring most references to guns.
- Fluorine, known to be dangerous in the state of California, has been linked to acne in mice.
- Youtube repeatedly deletes videos that show police seizing law-abiding citizens' stores of cocaine.
- You may not know it, but the concept of currency inflation was invented by Catholics, which wanted an easy way to increase the numerical value of their investments in lead. It's easy to tell that inflation was never really real: when things get older, they get run down and lose value, right? But inflation is about numbers getting BIGGER. It doesn't make any sense!
- The Chinese character for welfare looks a lot like the character for Barack Obama's name-- and it's not a coincidence.
- During WWII, a number of strange events occurred in rural South Korea which, in hindsight, bear striking resemblance to the war in Afghanistan. However, detailed research on the subject is impossible, since South Korea has destroyed its records on the subject. Coincidence? Definitely not.
- The Truman show was actually a documentary about Bill Clinton's secret son, who was sequestered in a highly controlled environment in Chernobyl until very recently. Why? The answer is both complicated and chilling.
- Facebook has been working for years to destroy the privacy of ordinary citizens-- for profit.
- Most economy textbooks don't include the most important facts about how LSD is critical to our economy.
In the US, employers are paying increasingly close attention to candidates' Facebook accounts; demanding that they hand over their Facebook passwords, allowing them to investigate their profiles, their past activities and the company they keep to determine whether they are of sufficient moral fibre:
In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state's Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall. Previously, applicants were asked to surrender their user name and password, but a complaint from the ACLU stopped that practice last year. While submitting to a Facebook review is voluntary, virtually all applicants agree to it out of a desire to score well in the interview, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann.And some universities are requiring students to friend official accounts and monitoring their social network activity:
Student-athletes in colleges around the country also are finding out they can no longer maintain privacy in Facebook communications because schools are requiring them to "friend" a coach or compliance officer, giving that person access to their “friends-only” posts. Schools are also turning to social media monitoring companies with names like UDilligence and Varsity Monitor for software packages that automate the task. The programs offer a "reputation scoreboard" to coaches and send "threat level" warnings about individual athletes to compliance officers.(I imagine that the assumption here is that those on athletic scholarships are not bright enough to set up friend lists and segregate their posts. After all, Facebook doesn't tell you whether you see all of a user's posts, a small portion, or in fact, whether they put you on their “Restricted” list (i.e., the “pretend-to-be-this-schmuck's-friend-but-don't-show-them-anything” list).
Demanding Facebook passwords is of dubious legality, however, if a court rules in favour of this practice, companies answerable to shareholders and concerned about legal liability may start adopting it as policy. One option is to not have a Facebook account, or deny having one; however, this could be a liability, marking one out as some kind of antisocial loner (studies have found that evidence of a social life can boost one's employability rankings, and if everyone's on Facebook, the one guy whose name draws a blank could look too much like potential spree-killer material to be worth the risk.)
If employer (or school, or governmental) Facebook surveillance becomes widespread I can see a new version of the clean-urine-for-drug-tests business model emerging, in the form of clean-but-plausibly-active-looking Facebook profiles for presentation to officials. Fill in a form giving details (what political/religious views it should espouse, where it should be between gregariously easy-going and Stepfordesquely clean (in most cases, inserting a few minor flaws for versimilitude is recommended, though the optimum degree of flaws will vary case by case; your case advisor can offer you guidance), what sorts of people, institutions and social situations your perfect doppelgänger should be seen to associate with, &c.), put in your credit card number and, presto, an army of third-world data-centre workers will assemble a profile you can show to any authority figure without fear. For a monthly fee, they'll even run your parallel life in the background for you, keeping the illusion up, posting anodyne comments about TV shows and sports matches, attending church mixers, liking big, uncontroversial brands and even giving you your desired level of a simulated social life with a network of convincing yet utterly unimpeachable sockpuppets.
The president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agricultural scientist Nina Fedoroff, has spoken out about a rising anti-scientific mood, largely triggered by corporate-funded populist attacks against science:
As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians. At the last Republican party debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier than his rivals Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to the "hoax" of global warming.
"Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year's presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying," said Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, San Diego.This phenomenon is not confined to the United States; Canada's stridently right-wing government has prohibited its scientists from speaking to the public without explicit government vetting. Similar things happened in Australia under the Howard government, and chances are that political censorship of research will return with a vengeance when newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott moves to repay his debts to the mining industry.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the Tea Party and similar right-wing populists are organising against environmental programmes, which they see as parts of a United Nations and/or Communist plot against the American way of life. You see, building bike lanes and high-speed railways is just a plot to coerce the free American people into giving up their SUVs, McMansions and God-given freedom and submitting to collectivisation like the wretched inhabitants of hellholes like Sweden and Switzerland. And as for smart electric meters, they're part of a plot to bring in a Communist dictatorship, just like water fluoridation, the invisible bar codes on road signs which will guide the Chinese UN troops massing south of the Mexican borders as they herd Christian patriots to the reeducation camps, and the Computer God Frankenstein Controls:
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions. “It sounds a little on the weird side, but we’ve found we ignore it at our own peril,” said George Homewood, a vice president of the American Planning Association’s chapter in Virginia.
In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”
According to this story a British visitor to the US was arrested and deported after he posted to his Twitter feed that he was planning to "destroy America" and "dig up Marilyn Monroe", immediately flagging him as a terrorist threat.
The Department of Homeland Security flagged him as a potential threat when he posted an excited tweet to his pals about his forthcoming trip to Hollywood which read: 'Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America'.
If the story is true (and, given that it comes from the Daily Mail, which never lets the facts get in the way of marshalling popular outrage, that is a considerable 'if'), it implies two things:
- The US border control agency (not the CIA or NSA or some other super-elite agency that hunts threats through the shadows, but the guys who scan passports) has a feed of intelligence gathered from the public Twitter feeds of anyone seeking to enter the US (and possibly other social media connected to their identities). This has a number of implications: where does the data come from? Is it just what is publicly linked to the poster's profile online, or does it come from clandestine sources (i.e., a list of user-generated content sites posted to from the visitor's home internet connection, as hoovered up by ECHELON)? Is there some NSA supercomputer quietly building up profiles on several billion internet users, with parts of these being sent to border security if some other part of the surveillance apparatus detects a keyphrase (say, the words "destroy America") in a feed linked to a particular individual?
- Given the nature of the tweet (which any reasonable person, had they overheard it in a pub, would conclude was a joke), it implies that, as far as the US Department of Homeland Security is concerned, the entire internet is an airport security zone, where joking about, say, carrying bombs or even an absurdity such as destroying America (how exactly would one go about accomplishing this?) is a punishable offence. There is a reason why joking about bombs at airport security screening lines is prohibited; namely that constraining the allowed range of behaviours whilst passing through a security checkpoint allows the checkpoint to operate. This rationale doesn't extend to applying the same rules to any idle banter uttered by a traveller within earshot of electronic intelligence gathering apparatus, and immediately punishing wisecracks.
If this system is as imperfect and prone to false positives as, say, the No-Fly List implemented in the US after 9/11, where people were banned from flying because their names and birthdates were close to those of suspected terrorists or other troublemakers, you can imagine the zany hijinks that might ensue the next time, say, that a business traveller shares a name with a Trotskyist agitator or radical cleric, or just some joker with, shall we say, different standards of self-restraint.
From what I gather, it is very difficult if not impossible for foreign visitors to seek legal redress against the US immigration authorities. More's the pity, as that will allow such absurdities to stand; with no chance of censure, the Homeland Security officials who made the call technically did the right thing, as there is nothing eligible for consideration to balance the (infinitesimally tiny) chance that they might have caught an actual terrorist. (In fact, they might have to deport enough people to exceed airline capacity out of the US and the capacity of airport holding cells for it to register as a problem.) Anyway, it seems that the moral of this story is: if there's any chance of your wanting or needing to visit the United States, don't joke about bombs or terrorism or drugs or non-specific acts of destruction, or indeed anything other that you wouldn't talk about in an airport security queue.
Recently, a right-wing extremist massacred close to 100 people in Norway, first setting a remotely detonated car bomb near government offices in Oslo. Then, as police combed through the wreckage, he made his way to the nearby island of Utøya, where the Labour Party's youth wing were having a camp, attired in a police uniform. For an hour or two, he roamed the island, gunning down teenagers as if in a video game, only surrendering when the police arrived.
This post is not so much about the events as they happened (there is no point in picking over the gruesome details of an atrocity), nor about the murderer's political beliefs and agenda (which should be regarded with the contempt they deserve, and not dignified with a place in the arena of debate), but rather about the media response; in particular, the immediate assumption, and wild speculation, that the massacre was the work of Islamic terrorist groups. From the first reports of the explosion, there was an immediate flurry of speculation: why are the Muslims attacking Norway (is it support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process? reprinting of Danish newspaper cartoons? Or just because nobody expects an attack on Norway?) Even when reports came in of a gunman attacking a Labour Party camp, the media didn't twig to the fact that, from the point of view of al-Qaeda-style jihadists, restricting one's attacks to one political faction of infidels rather than going for maximum carnage made little sense, and that it looked more like the motive of some kind of neo-Nazi or far-right group.
The Murdoch empire, bloodied but unbowed by its recent lapse of control over Britain's (and possibly America's) political establishment, led the charge, not unlike the corpse of El Cid lashed to his horse. The Sun quickly rushed out a front page blaming al-Qaeda, though then hurriedly pulped it when the facts came in. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the Atlantic where they do things differently, Fox News played true to character, announcing that the massacre was the first incident of non-Islamic terrorism since 1995. Terrorism, you see, is a pathology peculiar to the foul Mohammedans, or at least to threatening-looking brown-skinned people who eat funny-smelling food.
Meanwhile, as the details of the murderer's beliefs emerged, so did an entirely different picture. Rather than the work of the Islamic other, the atrocity was the result of a pathological reaction against the fear of the other. The murderer turned out to be a right-wing psychopath, who set out to strike at the "cultural Marxists" (a term used by the far right to apply to anything they find disagreeable, from feminism to bad posture). He styled himself, presumably for purposes of expediency, as a Christian Fundamentalist (though claimed in his manifesto the particularly Randian view that religion is a crutch for the weak) and cultivated ties with contemporary far-right groups such as the English Defence League and the US Tea Party, as well as other anti-Muslim hate groups. (Ironically enough, he also expressed staunchly pro-Israeli opinions; I say ironically, because chances are, had he been born ten years earlier, he'd probably have been more likely to have been fire-bombing synagogues than supporting a Jewish anything. After all, the position occupied by the Muslim in the demonology of the European/American far right was, well within living memory, occupied by the Jew. In reality, of course, the Other is a McGuffin; it doesn't matter what name they go by or whether anyone has met one, as long as there is something sufficiently different to hate and fear.) Incidentally, his manifesto approvingly quoted Tory bully-boy humorist Jeremy Clarkson; make of that what you will.
Meanwhile, here is Glenn Greenwald's examination of the "terrorists-are-Muslims" subtext in news reports:
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances. The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission. Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets -- even if the target is an invading army in their own countries -- are, by definition, Terrorists. That is why, as NYU's Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.And here is Charlie Brooker's take; somewhat more solemn than his usual column, though no less incisive.
Tumblog of the day: Hate The Future (subtitle: "bad news from there"), a collection of found images (from current events, architectural concept images, science fiction artwork and random other sources), with vaguely ominous captions suggesting somewhat Ballardian scenarios, collected and written by journalist Miles Klee:
And today, in International Zionist Conspiracy news: the Iranian government has stated to the International Olympic Committee that it will boycott the 2012 Olympics unless the logo is changed, on the grounds that the logo spells the word "Zion" if you rearrange the elements of it, and thus is a coded assertion of British support for Israeli supremacy. Or perhaps Rastafarianism or something.
According to the state-backed Iranian Students News Agency, which is frequently used to convey official pronouncements, the letter says: "As internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of the 2012 Olympic Games is a disgracing action and against the Olympics' valuable mottos. There is no doubt that negligence of the issue from your side may affect the presence of some countries in the Games, especially Iran which abides by commitment to the values and principles."Meanwhile, Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist group which rules half of the Palestinian territories, has vowed to prevent United Nations schools in its territories from teaching children about the Holocaust.
"We cannot agree to a programme that is intended to poison the minds of our children," said a statement from the ministry for refugee affairs. "Holocaust studies in refugee camps is a contemptible plot and serves the Zionist entity with a goal of creating a reality and telling stories in order to justify acts of slaughter against the Palestinian people."
Ging, a passionate advocate of the rights of Palestinian refugees and a vocal critic of Israel's policies towards Gaza, said Palestinian children needed to understand the great injustices of the 20th century, including the Holocaust, in order to fight legitimately for their own cause.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship sank off the coast of Hartlepool, in the north of England. The only survivor was the ship's mascot, a monkey dressed in a naval uniform. The monkey made it to the shore, where it was captured by locals, who had never seen a monkey (this, you see, was before television, widespread literacy and public zoos), so they assumed that it was a Frenchman and hanged it as a spy. From this incident, the residents of Hartlepool became known as "monkey-hangers".
Almost 200 years later, Saudi Arabian security services have arrested a vulture tagged by an Israeli university wildlife resarch programme as a "Zionist spy".
Residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest. The accusations went viral, according to the Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper, with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming that the "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage.The Israeli authorities have denied any espionage, and claimed that the bird was part of a long-term academic study of the migratory habits of the vulture.
It is not clear what sort of vulture-based intelligence the Israelis could be looking for.
More on WikiLeaks editor/international supervillain/New World Order martyr Julian Assange: What looks like Assange's OKCupid profile, last updated in 2007. His screen name was "HarryHarrison", after a scifi author best known for his Stainless Steel Rat stories, about an anarchist antihero:
Passionate, and often pig headed activist intellectual seeks siren for love affair, children and occasional criminal conspiracy.
I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil. Western culture seems to forge women that are valueless and inane. OK. Not only women!
I am DANGER, ACHTUNG, and ??????????????!Meanwhile, an Internet Archive mirror of Assange's blog/website/.profile page is here. It's a good admixture of the hyper-lucid, the paranoid and the somewhat creepy. (If Assange does get a rape trial with a jury, some of the opinions he expressed about women could swing it to a conviction.)
Mathematics is a systemization of communicable human thought created by brain architectures that have male-type spacial abilities and extremised by the extremes within that group. Extreme female brain architectures would create a different sort of mathematics. It won't be created by the females currently in mathematics because they need a male type brain to thrive in the existing mathematical world. Perhaps a good cognitive neuroscientist will do it for them.
One of the devout was the lovely daughter of a New Castle minister. At some point in my unintended wooing of her, she looked up, fluttered her eyelids and said 'Oh, you know so much! I hardly know anything!'. 'That is why you believe in God," I explained. This conversational brutality took her breath away and she swooned. I was exactly what she secretly longed for; a man willing to openly disagree with her father. All along she had needed a man to devote herself to. All along she had failed to find a man worthy of being called a man, failed to find a man who would not bow to gods, so she had chosen a god unworthy of being called a god, but who would not bow to a man.
And here is Dogs In Space director Richard Lowenstein's account of his online discussions with Assange in 1994, about a possible film based on the Melbourne hacker underground.
(via Boing Boing, MeFi) ¶ 1
It's paedogeddon: A school in Welwyn Garden City, north of London, has taken to blacking out pupils' eyes in school photographs, to prevent perverts from photoshopping their faces onto pornographic images. Each copy of a school photograph issued to a parent has the eyes of all children other than that parent's own occluded by black lines, just in case. Parents are also banned from taking photographs at the school's nativity play, just in case they might turn out to be paedophiles.
Applecroft Primary School has not commented on alleged plans to fit all children with containers containing pressurised sewage, which can be remotely detonated in the event of a paedophile attack.
A couple in New York are charged with defrauding a wealthy musician of somewhere between $6m and $20m after he asked them to remove a virus from his laptop. Vickram Bedi and Helga Invarsdottir, who operated a computer shop, allegedly discovered, upon learning of their client, pianist and PC user Roger Davidson's wealth (and possibly other things; perhaps his browsing history revealed a propensity for fantastic stories and/or conspiracy theories?), that the virus on his laptop was merely the tip of a vast, sinister conspiracy against him by intelligence agencies, foreign nationals and the shadowy Catholic sect Opus Dei (best known as the villains in a Dan Brown novel), and then offered him "24-hour protection" against the threats for the low, low price of $160,000 (a bargain for protection against the arrayed forces of evil itself, I'm sure you'll agree). Anyway, Bedi an Invarsdottir apparently managed to convince Davidson so well that he paid up, and kept paying for some six years.
In the US, someone has been anonymously sending laptops to state governors. Laptops have been sent, in some cases multiple times, to the governors of states including West Virginia and Wyoming. The computers have been handed over to the FBI for investigation, on the suspicion that they might be Trojan horses intended to pwn the apparatus of government on behalf of whoever sent them.
Regarding the last post about last.fm: one of last.fm's staff has posted a rebuttal on their web forums, to wit:
* Nobody at Last.fm had any knowledge of our user data being fed to the RIAA (or any labels directly), before or after the alleged incident, or at any other point in the history of the company.Make of that what you will. Assuming the denials are true, last.fm and/or CBS will have no choice but to sue TechCrunch for libel to protect their reputation; it'll be interesting to see how that unfolds.
* We've been in communication with CBS and they deny that they gave any third party any of our user data.
If TechCrunch have any evidence which contradicts any of the statements I've made here, I'd love to see it, but I think someone is taking them for a ride. I'm not sure why, though.
Nonetheless, even if this isn't true, the possibilities it raises are thought-provoking:
- Last.fm's scrobbling software originally sent over only the title, artist and length of tracks as they were played. More recently, it was extended to send a fingerprint of each track. The difference between these two is crucial; it is the difference between hearsay and admissible evidence. In short, when you scrobble a track using the last.fm client, it sends over cryptographic proof of your possession of the recording. You can disable the fingerprinting function in the last.fm client software, assuming that you trust it, of course:
- How much you trust last.fm's closed-source client software is another matter. Assuming that last.fm had been compromised by the MAFIAA, what's to say that the software didn't trawl your hard drive for things that looked like MP3s (slowly, as not to arouse suspicion), fingerprint them, and then send the list over to MediaSentry or someone, along with some juicy forensic information about your machine (serial numbers, MAC addresses, &c.)?
- Of course, this would be totally illegal and even more unethical. But, then again, so would waiving the EU's privacy laws to send user identifying information to CBS (as is alleged). And it's not like the RIAA haven't been known to use underhanded tactics in their dirty war against music fans.
- Even assuming that last.fm are 100% above board and CBS are sufficiently law-abiding to not undermine them, handing over potentially compromising information imples a trust that the information will be kept secure; i.e., that there are no weak links. Given the fact that everybody from TK Maxx to Her Majesty's Government seems to leak personal information left, right and centre, this may not be a safe assumption.
More dispatches from the War on the Unexpected: London police forced an Austrian tourist to delete photographs of a bus station, on the grounds that photographing transport infrastructure was "strictly forbidden". Which sounds like something more befitting of, say, Belarus or North Korea than of an ostensibly free country:
Matkza, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was "strictly forbidden". The policemen also recorded the pair's details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.
In a telephone interview from his home in Vienna, Matka said: "I've never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries."Meanwhile, in the United States, police seized a student's computers on the grounds that he was using a suspicious operating system (i.e., Linux), and thus probably up to no good:
_________ reported that Mr. Calixte uses two different operating systems to hide his illegal activities. One is the regular [Boston College] operating system and the other is a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.Which sounds like he's guilty of some kind of technological witchcraft.
A Pentagon researcher has laid out a chilling possibilities: that terrorists could be using online role-playing games to plan attacks, disguised as raids in the virtual world:
In it, two World of Warcraft players discuss a raid on the "White Keep" inside the "Stonetalon Mountains." The major objective is to set off a "Dragon Fire spell" inside, and make off with "110 Gold and 234 Silver" in treasure. "No one will dance there for a hundred years after this spell is cast," one player, "war_monger," crows.
Except, in this case, the White Keep is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "Dragon Fire" is an unconventional weapon. And "110 Gold and 234 Silver" tells the plotters how to align the game's map with one of Washington, D.C.Of course, the same argument could apply to any form of discussion. Terrorists could just as easily use last.fm playlists or online mixtapes to hatch their plans. (The above plan could be encoded as a copy of OMD's Enola Gay and a song by industrial noise band Whitehouse, followed by a song exactly 11 minutes long, which would give the time of the attack. For chemical or biological weapons, replace Enola Gay with Britney Spears' Toxic. You get the idea.) Or they could use internet memes; who's to say that the particular spelling/grammatical anomalies on the caption of the latest set of cat photos don't encode the details of a planned terrorist attack?
Of course, the terrorists could even eschew the internet altogether, using other means of communicating their plans, such as, say, public art. Who's to say that a terrorist sleeper agent hasn't been quietly making a name for himself as an artist, getting lucrative commissions, and waiting for the order to encode doomsday plans in a public sculpture (plenty of opportunity there) or a semi-abstract mural. (Avant-garde art itself is too easy.) Or architecture, or urban planning (if there are Masonic symbols in the layout of Washington DC's streets, there could be other things elsewhere.) The possibilities are infinite.
Perhaps Bruce Schneier could make his next Movie Plot Threat Contest hinge on coming up with creative ways in which evildoers could go to elaborate lengths to encode the message "nuke the Whitehouse at 11:00" in innocuous-looking environments. Because, as we all know, supervillains love complexity in and of itself, and the ideal terrorist plan would look more baroque than a steampunk laptop on Boing Boing.
A list of 10 bizarre inventions patented in the name of fighting terrorism, from nondescript trucks with machine guns to bomb-proof anti-suicide-bomber nets (which looked like repurposed Nixon-era hippie-containment apparatus) to trap doors on airliners and remotely triggerable tranquilliser syringes in airline seats for incapacitating suspicious individuals:
Make all passengers wear armbands that monitors their body for signs of falsehood and evil (ooh, say heart pulsation and blood pressure - hey, it's in the patent application, mmkay?). And did I mention there's a syringe filled with a strong tranquilizer connected to the thing? One "anomalous emotional condition," then off to dreamland they go!And, if all else fails, there's even a patent for mobile crematoria for disposing of all the bodies.
The Untold History of Toontown's SpeedChat, or an account of what happened when some pioneering virtual-community software developers accepted a commission from Disney to build an online community site—one compliant with Disney's values, so that "there could be no swearing, no sex, no innuendo, and nothing that would allow one child (or adult pretending to be a child) to upset another ... No kid will be harassed, even if they don't know they are being harassed.".
"We spent several weeks building a UI that used pop-downs to construct sentences, and only had completely harmless words - the standard parts of grammar and safe nouns like cars, animals, and objects in the world."
"We thought it was the perfect solution, until we set our first 14-year old boy down in front of it. Within minutes he'd created the following sentence:
I want to stick my long-necked Giraffe up your fluffy white bunny.
They added a method to allow direct chat between users that involves the exchange of secret codes that are generated for each user (with parental permission). The idea is that kids would print them out and give them to each other on the playground. This was a great way for Disney to end-run the standard - since Speed Chat was an effective method of preventing the exchange of these codes, and theoretically the codes had to be given "in-person", making the recipient not-a-stranger. Sure, some folks post them on message boards, but presumably those are folks who 1) are adults, or 2) know each other, right? In any case, as long as no one could pass secret codes within Toontown itself, Disney feels safe.The author, Randall Farmer, coined from this the SpeedChat Corollary: "By hook, or by crook, customers will always find a way to connect with each other."
An outfit named Sweet Dreams Security is making designed objects for a more paranoid age; from spiked railings, barbed wire and CCTV camera covers in the shape of cute animals to heart-shaped chains and (perhaps more practically) lace curtains shaped like anti-burglar grilles.
It's not clear how much of this is sincerely intended to fill a gap in the market and how much is critiquing or poking fun at of the siege mentality of contemporary society and its normalisation as a banal aspect of consumer capitalism. The pieces shown are said to be actual manufactured items which may be ordered or bought in various designy shops, though they have mostly been exhibited in art galleries.
In today's paranoid age, controlling parents have ever-increasing options for monitoring everything their children do:
The SnoopStick looks like a memory stick. You plug it into your teenager's computer when they are not around, and it installs stealth software on to the machine. Then you plug it into your own computer and can sit back at your leisure and observe, in real time, exactly what your child is doing online - what websites they are visiting, the full conversations they are having on the instant messenger (IM) service, and who they are sending emails to. It is as if you are sitting and invisibly spying over their shoulder.
Significantly, the £37.50 device comes with the warning that, if you use it to monitor an employee's computer without notifying them, you may well be in breach of employment laws. But install it secretively on the computer of your teenager, who has absolutely no rights at all, and no one can touch you. The moral argument doesn't come into it.
The following devices, please note, are not just being marketed to private detectives to catch errant spouses; they are being targeted at parents of teenagers. You can get clothes with tracking devices fitted into them. You can fit such devices covertly into mobile phones. For $149 you can purchase a mobile spy data extractor, which reads deleted text messages from a SIM card. For $79 you can buy a semen detection kit, to test your teenage daughter's clothing. And for $99, if you really want to ape the mad ex-Marine father in American Beauty, you can buy a drug identification kit which can detect up to 12 different illegal drugs.
The SnoopStick symbolises the modern obsession with control. The American psychologist Robert Epstein, who wrote the controversial book The Case Against Adolescence, estimates that young Americans are now ten times more restricted than adults, and twice as restricted as convicted criminals. He says teenagers are infantilised and deprived of human rights. As well as the obvious legal bar to prevent them smoking, drinking, marrying, voting and gambling, teenagers have no privacy rights, no property rights, no right to sign contracts or make decisions regarding their own medical or psychiatric treatment.
The practice of street photography, taking spontaneous photographs in public places, is under threat, as photographers find themselves lumped in with the shadowy paedoterrorist hordes who are out to kill us all and molest our children:
In the past year, the photography blogs have buzzed with tales of harassment, even violence. There's the war photographer who dodged bullets abroad only to be beaten up in his own South London backyard by a paranoid parent who (wrongly) thought his child was being photographed. There's the amateur photographer punched prostrate in the London Tube after refusing to give up his film to a stranger; the case of the man in Hull, swooped on by police after taking photographs in a shopping centre. “Any person who appears to be taking photos in a covert manner should expect to be stopped and spoken to by police ...” ran the Humberside force's statement.
Sophie Howarth is a curator specialising in street photography. She says she's noticed - despite the difficulties - a boom for the art, enabled by technology, and with London at the centre. “In France, traditionally one of the great centres of street photography, the law now says you own the rights to your own image, so street photography's become a dead art. In London there's a growing community of photographers, using digi- tal technology, not just cameras, but blogs, too, to document the city and give each other instant feedback.”When did the law in France change? Was that one of Sarkozy's neo-Galambosian intellectual-property-maximalist reforms, like pushing for EU-wide copyright term extension?
“I'm not going to belittle the issue of terrorism, but this is paranoia. And unfortunately, since Lady Di and now this link with terrorists, photography's seen by many people as something that's a little ... cheap.”
(via meimaimaggio) ¶ 0
The FBI has a new technique for sniffing out potential terrorist cells: scanning grocery store records for telltale spikes in felafel sales. Really.
Other than anything else, the fact that they were using felafel sales to find Iranian sleeper cells suggests that whoever came up with this idea didn't do their homework.
As we dig in for the long siege and see potential terrorists in every shadow, the war on terror is, according to Bruce Schneier, turning into a war on the unexpected, with untrained civilians encouraged to report anything out of the ordinary, and the authorities escalating such reports to full-blown incidents:
We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.
This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat; the police cordon off the area, make arrests, and/or evacuate airplanes; and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling, or a cell phone in an airplane seat.Schneier also links to this blog item, which shows that this principle is being extended towards the padeophile end of the paedoterrorist axis; apparently, in Virginia, a father holding his young daughter's hand is a sign of probable sexual abuse.
Speculation has arisen about the US intelligence services deploying insect-sized surveillance drones after anti-war protesters reported seeing unusually large and odd-looking dragonflies at a demonstration:
"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "
At the same time, he added, some details do not make sense. Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies -- an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison. "Dragonflies never fly in a pack," he said.The FBI has denied having such technologies. The CIA, meanwhile, is known to have tested a robotic "insectothopter" in the 1970s, before scrapping the project as it could not handle crosswinds. Scientists now have a better understanding of how insects fly, and it's possible that modern computer technology (not to mention materials science) could enable an insectothopter to respond to changes in its environment sufficiently well to navigate. Whether the spooks would risk prototypes, which officially do not exist, being captured by anti-war protesters is another question.
(If these things do exist, it's a good thing that America is immune to totalitarianism; imagine what, say, the Stasi or the Burmese junta would do with such technologies.)
Actually, the CIA/FBI may be a red herring. Has anybody asked Google about these bugs?
As America digs in for the long siege, there is now a high school specialising in "Homeland Security"-related subjects:
The new school is funded and guided by a slew of federal, state, and local agencies, not to mention several defense firms. Officials say it will teach kids to understand the "new reality," though they hasten to add that the school isn't focused just on terrorism. School administrators, channeling Cheneyesque secrecy, refused to be interviewed for this story. But it's no secret that the program is seen as a model for the rest of the country, with the Pentagon and other agencies watching closely.
Students will choose one of three specialized tracks: information and communication technology, criminal justice and law enforcement, or "homeland security science." David Volrath, executive director of secondary education for Harford County Public Schools, says the school also hopes to offer "Arabic or some other nontraditional, Third World-type language."
However, it's not clear how many Joppatowne grads will be on track to join the upper echelons of the intelligence community and how many will wind up as airport screeners. "We do want to encourage higher education," Volrath says. "We also want to be realistic. Some of these defense contractors will have huge security needs, and the jobs won't require four years of college."
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
WIRED News has an article on the Kafkaesque world of US "terrorist watch lists". If your name (or some approximation thereof; which is why it can suck to have a common Arabic name) appears on them, you can be detained for interrogation should you attempt to board a flight in the US, or denied credit. You are not entitled to any explanation and have no right to recourse, and the very existence of some of these watchlists, or how many there are, is not officially acknowledged. Which, as you can imagine, lends itself to abuse:
Despite that, last month constitutional scholar Walter F. Murphy, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Princeton University, found himself unable to check in curbside at a New Mexico airport. A check-in clerk with American Airlines told him it was because he was on a "terrorist watch list," Murphy says.
"One of them, I don't remember which one, asked me, 'Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying for that,'" recalls Murphy. "I said, 'No, but I did give a speech criticizing George Bush,' and he said, 'That will do it.'"
While there are almost no American citizens on the OFAC list, it is routinely used during home purchases, credit checks and even apartment rentals, and has caused people with common Latino and Muslim names to be denied mortgages for having a name that only vaguely resembles a name on the list, according to a recent report (.pdf) from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
It's official: a US district court has ruled that household product manufacturer Procter & Gamble are not Satanists, despite the persistent urban legends: More specifically, the ruling smacked down four representatives of Amway, a rival product manufacturer allegedly connected with the US Religious Right and/or operating in a cult-like fashion, of deliberately spreading this rumour and urging a boycott. The defendants denied malicious intent, saying that their goal was merely to "fight the Church of Satan".
To the best of my knowledge the Church of Satan has not issued any statement on the ruling.
Shamelessly plagiarised from Mind Hacks:
A list of delusions taken from the psychiatric literature that don't seem that delusional when you think about them:
To quote Salvador Dalí, "The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad".
- "The earth is doomed"
- Patient with Alzheimer's reported by Sultzer et al. (2003)
- "Bill Gates is destroying my files and spying on me"
- 32 year old patient reported by Podoll et al. (2000)
- "A local gang is going to mug me"
- South London patient reported by Freeman et al. (2001)
- "I drove two people mad when I was 11 to 14 years old"
- Patient from a study by Rhodes and Jakes (2000)
- "My thoughts are being controlled by TV newscasters"
- Inpatient reported by Noffsinger and Saleh (2000)
(via Mind Hacks) ¶ 0
Project Censored has published a list of the top 25 news stories you didn't hear of in the mainstream media:
1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
24 Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
The UK's terror threat level has been downgraded from "critical" to "severe". It is not clear whether this is a result of confidence that the worst threat is over, or because airports have been unable to cope with the new security measures.
And it now emerges that the attack may not have been imminent (the suspects had not purchased tickets and some didn't even have passports), but the timing of the arrests was forced by US officials. And this (somewhat more sensationalistic) article (via jwz) claims that the timing was "nothing more than political fabrication". And here is the Independent's roundup of what we know and don't know.
And Bruce Schneier has weighed in, on the subject of effective security and "security theatre":
None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 -- no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews -- had anything to do with last week's arrests. And they wouldn't have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn't have made a difference, either.
The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.
But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won't make us safer, either. It's not just that there are ways around the rules, it's that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.
The goal of a terrorist is to cause terror. Last week's arrests demonstrate how real security doesn't focus on possible terrorist tactics, but on the terrorists themselves. It's a victory for intelligence and investigation, and a dramatic demonstration of how investments in these areas pay off.
Air transport authorities are warning that increased security measures, including cabin baggage restrictions and extra screening, will be permanent, with restrictions on liquids and bans on certain types of cabin luggage remaining in force. Passengers may next have to surrender belts and trousers (or wear special pocketless flight suits, yet to be introduced) as such could be used by terrorists to smuggle explosives undetectably. Though even that won't stop terror mules with bombs inside their bodies:
"Quite frankly, that kind of experimentation has been taking place. We know that they have been testing strapped-on explosives on animals in the Middle East for years and it's not a magical leap to try inserting it into the rectum," he said.
Terrorists have already used mocked pregnancy prosthetics to slip bombs aboard planes, but no one has tried the mule approach yet, according to Harvey "Jack" McGeorge, a former Marine Corps bomb disposal specialist and a former Secret Service security specialist.
By smuggling explosives inside one's body, a suicide bomber would likely foil all of the current airport scanning technologies, as well as many future ones.Perhaps the solution for air travel in the age of perpetual terror will be to anaesthetise all airline passengers, place them in coffin-like life-support pods for the duration of their journey and reawaken them at the other end? That would also allow more passengers to be carried on a plane and eliminate the costs of food, drinks and in-flight entertainment, further cutting costs. Either that or resign ourselves to a certain proportion of flights being downed by terrorists (much in the way that people accept that a certain (much greater) proportion of road journeys end in fatal car accidents) and just regard it as the luck of the draw.
It looks like those bans on carry-on luggage on airliners could be here to stay, or at least until they find a way of detecting undetectable liquid explosives:
"A lot of these components are clear and have no smell and you could mix them on board. You do not need much explosive to bring down an aircraft," he said.
"The trouble with airport security measures is that a lot of machines do not spot a lot of explosives. It is still a case of dogs and people taking their clothes off."And further down:
Airports and aeroplanes have been a key target for terrorists for decades. British-born Richard Reid tried to detonate a shoebomb on a transatlantic flight from Paris to Miami in late 2001. He was overpowered by passengers as he tried to ignite the explosives and was later jailed for life by a US court.It looks like "shoebomb" is now a word.
More details are emerging on the terrorist attacks allegedly thwarted: they involved liquid explosives, carried by British-born terrorists (some with Pakistani connections), who allegedly planned to blow up airliners in waves of three at a time, for the glory of God the All-Merciful. The authorities claim the attack would have caused loss of life on an "unprecedented scale", which (after 9/11) makes one wonder how many aircraft they planned to blow up.
Anyway, until further notice, passengers on flights leaving the UK are prohibited from taking carry-on luggage or liquids into the cabin, except for a few small things (passport, sanitary items, and baby milk, which must be tasted by the passenger in question on check-in). Certainly no books, MP3 players, games, laptops or PDAs. Which makes me glad I'm not flying to Australia (about 21 hours each way) any time soon.
Of course, medicines with prescriptions are exempted from the rules. I hope no terrorist manages to forge a prescription and bring along some liquid explosive in a medicine bottle.
On a related note, Charlie Stross points to this paper, which provides some perspective about the magnitude of the terrorist threat and the response to it:
Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping of years by all forms of international terrorism than were killed by lightning, and almost none of those terrorist deaths occurred within the United States itself. Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number ofAmericans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
it would seem to be reasonable for those in charge of our safety to inform the public about how many airliners would have to crash before flying becomes as dangerous asdriving the same distance in an automobile. It turns out that someone has made that calculation: there would have to be one set of September 11 crashes a month for the risks to balance out. More generally, they calculate thatan American's chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America's safest roads -- rural interstate highways -- one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.
Accordingly, three key issues, set out by risk analyst Howard Kunreuther, require careful discussion but do not seem ever to get it:
- How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?
- How much should we be willing to pay for actions that are primarily reassuring but do little to change the actual risk?
- How can measures such as strengthening the public health system, which provide much broader benefits than those against terrorism, get the attention they deserve?
The latest peril in Australia: Aboriginal prisoners converting to militant Islam, and becoming potential terrorists; or so the federal government says, and would they lie about such important issues?
"We're worried (when) certain prisoners that are doing very long sentences, as an example, denounce their Aboriginality for Islam," he said. "We monitor them very closely ... To us they're not terrorists in the real sense but they talk the talk. So, if we had somebody who was recruiting in a prison ... we keep them away from people that might be susceptible to the conversion."Meanwhile, US air marshals, faced with insufficient likely terrorists to meet their quotas, have reportedly taken to adding innocent people to their watch lists to make up numbers:
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.
One example, according to air marshals, occurred on one flight leaving Las Vegas, when an unknowing passenger, most likely a tourist, was identified in an SDR for doing nothing more than taking a photo of the Las Vegas skyline as his plane rolled down the runway.
(via Boing Boing) ¶ 0
Today's Evening Standard headline: "CHATROOM LED TO MODEL'S MURDER"
Upon closer examination, the details of the story emerge. Apparently the model in question was murdered by her boyfriend at the time, whom she had initially met in an internet chatroom.
So yes, whilst one could say that, were it not for the chatroom, she'd probably still be alive, claiming that the Evil Evil Internet led directly to her death is a bit of a stretch. Though why let logic get in the way of selling copy?
In London, there are official notices everywhere from local councils and the Home Office warning the reader to beware of the criminality of their fellow man:
Momus, who is currently visiting London, has not failed to notice this (and, indeed, being an Emotional Communist, he sees it as evidence of the vicious winner-takes-all culture of Thatcherite-Blairite Britain):
It seemed to chime with the odd attitude expressed in an article I read in a British newspaper about an elderly couple who'd been murdered by robbers in their home. While everybody interviewed said what a sweet old pair they'd been, walking into town arm in arm, they were unanimous: these were people you'd almost expect to get robbed and killed, considering what an affluent area they lived in and how old and sweetly defenseless they were. It was almost some sort of Darwinian inevitability that such folks would get chopped up.Momus picks up on the slogan "leave it on show, expect it to go", and suggests some additional rhyming slogans warning people of the ubiquitous danger around them, whilst at the same time making it clear that they have only themselves to blame if they're insufficiently paranoid:
Walk visibly breasted, get quickly molested.And in the comments, others make their contributions:
Say something clever, get ready for bovver.
You died having sex? What did you expect?
Come to Berlin, you won't get done in!
peace, love and understanding? we're going to a hangin'Though not all take as gloomy a view of contemporary British life as Momus does. His old foil, Rhodri Marsden, has a different take:
get paid to make art??? we'll just buy it at wal-mart.
take the ipod for a jog, get murdered like a dog.
If you're not waving a flag, they'll call you a fag.
Get on the bus - you'll have no fuss!
Pop out for a beer, for fun and good cheer!
Let's all have a lark at Finsbury Park!
An interesting link from Momus: Market research firm Environics has conducted a survey of changing values in America, and come up with some disturbing conclusions. Over the past 12 years, their results show, the meta-values underlying American society have shifted away from engagement within society towards a paranoid, Hobbesian, every-man-for-himself world-view; this has fostered both libertinism and authoritarianism:
Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that the father of the family must be the master in his own house increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that men are naturally superior to women increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that violence is a normal part of life -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.The research was done by plotting survey responses on a rectangular "values matrix", with two axes: authority-individuality and fulfilment-survival:
The quadrants represent different worldviews. On the top lies authority, an orientation that values traditional family, religiosity, emotional control, and obedience. On the bottom, the individuality orientation encompasses risk-taking, anomie-aimlessness, and the acceptance of flexible families and personal choice. On the right side of the scale are values that celebrate fulfillment, such as civic engagement, ecological concern, and empathy. On the left, theres a cluster of values representing the sense that life is a struggle for survival: acceptance of violence, a conviction that people get what they deserve in life, and civic apathy. These quadrants are not random: Shellenberger and Nordaus developed them based on an assessment of how likely it was that holders of certain values also held other values, or self-clustered.
Over the past dozen years, the arrows have started to point away from the fulfillment side of the scale, home to such values as gender parity and personal expression, to the survival quadrant, home to illiberal values such as sexism, fatalism, and a focus on every man for himself. Despite the increasing political power of the religious right, Environics found social values moving away from the authority end of the scale, with its emphasis on responsibility, duty, and tradition, to a more atomized, rage-filled outlook that values consumption, sexual permissiveness, and xenophobia. The trend was toward values in the individuality quadrant.(If I recall correctly, fulfilment and survival are at the two opposite extremes of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with individuals whose survival needs are met progressing to focus on fulfilment needs. Could the reversion of the focus to survival be the result of respondents perceiving that their survival needs are threatened?)
On a related note: here is a PDF file of a presentation analysing British political opinions along similar lines, and finding that, while the old labels of "left" and "right" are less meaningful, opinions are divided along two axes: the Socialist-Free Market axis of economics and, more significantly, the "Axis of UKIP", which sorts respondents on their opinions on crime and international relations. At one end are the Daily Mail readers, who believe in isolationism and capital punishment, and on the other end are "chianti-swilling bleeding hearts" and cosmopolitanists. The centre of gravity is a little towards the UKIP end, which is why xenophobic, fear-mongering tabloids sell so well. The presentation also has diagrams of the distributions of positions by political affiliation and newspaper choice, with some interesting results.
Urban design for a paranoid age: the Safe Bedside Table, which easily comes apart to form a club and a shield for fighting off intruders.
(via bOING bOING) ¶ 0
A request for help from one "Adoh Fadduq" of the United Arab Emirates, found in gnu.emacs.help:
Insha Allah, I am now trying to choose an editor for my software development and typesetting work. I have closely considered Emacs, which fits my needs in some respects. I do, however, feel that there is a big security issue with it for me and my brethren: Emacs was largely developed by Jews and for Jews. Considering how cunning the Jews are, I would not be surprised to find that they have hidden special bugs and booby traps inside emacs, in order to spy on and disrupt work of my Allah believing brethren. Are my concerns justified?
(via dreamstooloud) ¶ 0
Bad news for victims of US Government mind control: a MIT study has shown that, whilst wrapping your head in aluminium foil attenuates some radio frequencies, it amplifies others, including some reserved for government use:
The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ''radio location'' (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites (see, for example, ). The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.
It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.
(via Mind Hacks) ¶ 0
An inquest into the suicide of two young people in Sydney blows the lid off the Goth subculture threatening your children. Goths, who are recognisable by piercings and a liking for Marilyn Manson and Korn, are into magic and the occult and given to self-harm and even suicide pacts:
Late yesterday, a school friend - a member of a Goth clique at the South Coast high school the girl attended - told the inquest her friend had been into white magic, Wicca, not the dark magic she said some Goths followed.I wonder what the serious Wiccans make of teenage angstpuppies appropriating their religion as a badge of hormonal alienation.
She said while some "heavy Goths" were into self-harm and talked of suicide, it was only once - on the night her friend ran away and came to stay at her house - that she mentioned suicide.I think I've witnessed the "heavy Goth" phenomenon. They'd be the ones hanging around shopping centres in size-XXXL Marilyn Manson/Cradle of Filth T-shirts, pale flesh bulging out from fishnet tops.
In the Red States of the US, there is now a conservative children's book, whose villains are those evil godless socialists in the Democratic Party:
Written by Katharine DeBrecht, a mother of three, it tells the story of two young brothers who try to make money from a lemonade stall but are thwarted at every turn by left-wing politicians who threaten to put them out of business.
Several of the characters in the book are instantly recognisable, including "Congresswoman Clunkton" who tells the boys to reduce the amount of sugar in their lemonade and forces them to add broccoli to every glass.
Later the boys are ordered to take down a picture of Jesus by the civil liberties lawyer Mr Fussman and eventually lose the stand when it is taken over by the government of "Liberaland", at which point it goes broke.
Their story turns out to be a dream, however, and the boys are able to pursue their free-market ambitions when they wake up.This book was apparently second only to Harry Potter on the Amazon children's book chart.
Forget spin doctors: the latest in public-opinion management is "strategic communications" firms, who will, for a fee, use psy-ops techniques to control public reaction to anything from disease outbreaks to coups:
A shadowy media firm steps in to help orchestrate a sophisticated campaign of mass deception. Rather than alert the public to the smallpox threat, the company sets up a high-tech "ops center" to convince the public that an accident at a chemical plant threatens London. As the fictitious toxic cloud approaches the city, TV news outlets are provided graphic visuals charting the path of the invisible toxins. Londoners stay indoors, glued to the telly, convinced that even a short walk into the streets could be fatal... While Londoners fret over fictitious toxins, the government works to contain the smallpox outbreak. The final result, according to SCL's calculations, is that only thousands perish, rather than the 10 million originally projected. Another success.
"If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that's going to save lives, that's fine," says Mark Broughton, SCL's public affairs director. "That's not a word I would use for that."The consultancy in question, Strategic Communications Laboratories, allegedly has expertise in areas including "psychological warfare", "public diplomacy" and "influence operations", including operations in a number of foreign countries (an example cited at their exhibit at the recent London arms fair involves benignly overthrowing an unstable Asian democracy to head off the threat of an insurgency, a scenario not unlike what happened in Nepal recently). It's hardly surprising that, in the post-9/11 age, they are gearing up to grab a slice of the lucrative homeland-security market.
Government deception may even be justified in some cases, according to Michael Schrage, a senior adviser to the security-studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If you tell the population that there's been a bio-warfare attack, hospital emergency rooms will be overwhelmed with people who sincerely believe they have all the symptoms and require immediate attention," Schrage says.
The problem, he adds, is that in a democracy, a large-scale ruse would work just once.
(via Mind Hacks) ¶ 0
In 2003, the CIA found what it thought were al-Qaeda terrorist instructions encoded in the al-Jazeera news ticker. The "instructions" detected by the CIA's steganalysis software included dates, flight numbers and the coordinates of targets including the White House and the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia, and resulted in the national terror alert level being raised from "extra-severe" to "brown trouser time" and almost 30 flights being cancelled. That is, until it emerged that the "hidden messages" were just the result of random noise, coincidence and the human pattern-finding instinct:
The problem with hunting messages hidden by steganography is that there are so few of them, any computer program will come up with false positives - messages that aren't really there. "The false positive rate, even if it's vanishingly small, starts to throw signals at you that makes you want to believe you're seeing messages. And somebody could be fooled by that if they didn't understand the nature of steganography," says Honeyman.This happened some time after it was discovered that al-Qaeda weren't hiding terrorist instructions in images on internet porn sites.
MI5 is warning British tourists to watch out for foreign spies when travelling abroad, or when returning from abroad:
The advice warns: "Lavish hospitality, flattery and the 'red carpet' treatment are used by some intelligence services to soften up a target for recruitment who may then feel obliged to co-operate rather than offend the hosts."
MI5 also urges sunseekers to be careful about holiday romances, as having sex with a stranger could make them vulnerable to blackmail. Tourists might also think twice about discussing national security within earshot of hotel staff or taxi drivers who in some countries are required to report to the local security service.
Holidaymakers are even being told to be alert on their return to Britain. MI5 has compiled a list of warning signals that could indicate a foreign intelligence service is "cultivating" them. They should consider contacting the police or their company's security co-ordinator if they come across people who prefer to meet face-to-face, want to become friends, or ask personal questions.
The Graun sends a reporter to Iceland to catch up with Bobby Fischer, former chess master turned paranoid lunatic, who spends most of the time ranting about how the Jews are out to get him.
As he is leaving Copenhagen, he is cornered in a car park by the agitated man from Channel 1 and gives some characteristically robust quotes - to summarise, death to the Jews, death to Japan, death to America, death to George Bush. (Probably death to Tony Blair, too - Fischer refused to fly via London because he feared he would be grabbed by the police there.) Anyway, Fischer has let off steam, the Channel 1 man's job is saved, we have a news story.
Fischer has an obsession with detail that, to my non-medical eye, appears autistic. When he recites his suffering at the hands of the US and now the Japanese, every letter he has received is cited, dated, described exactly. His is a world of tiny details; it is the bigger picture that eludes him, so he falls back on one stupid overarching theory - the world Jewish conspiracy. The Icelandic view that he is a lovable eccentric is a cop-out. He is a paranoid fantasist. But he is deluded not dangerous; Howard Hughes rather than Adolf Hitler. Mastery of detail, obsessionalism, relentless concentration, the ability to shut out the world are advantages in chess; in life they can be a disaster, especially when there is no screen between what you say and what you think.
For those who break into a cold sweat every time they drive the Hummer out of the gated community, Ford have a new solution for 21st-century urban survival: the Ford Synus, a "rolling urban command center" which looks somewhere between an armoured bank truck, an obscenely large SUV and a Mack truck, and features rolling shutters over windows and bullet-resistant glass, whilst providing mini-home-theatre comfort inside. It's currently a concept vehicle only, and possibly a joke, though it should sell well in places like South Africa (especially if they supply under-door flamethrowers as an optional extra), and should last until inner-city criminals get RPG launchers. Or perhaps it's just a status symbol for rappers and movie stars.
Two Dutch designers are taking on the growing menace of muggers with handbags embossed with outlines of guns; they also have ones with the shapes of knives and crucifixes (the last are presumably for use against vampires), not to mention laptop bags embossed with groceries to make them look less stealable. (Not sure how well that works; the outlines in the photos look a bit too cartoonish and unrealistic. I imagine that simple non-rectangular lumpiness, of the "I'm carrying lots of soft, non-valuable things", would probably be more effective in practice.) (via bOING bOING)
One of the batch of Gmail invites that has recently flooded the streets has ended up in my hands, and hence I've been able to have a look at it.
- Gmail user names must have at least 6 characters, so über-l33t names like, say, "acb" are out. One fewer reason to angst about all the good names having been snapped up by early adopters, big spenders and well-connected digerati.
- If your desired ID is unavailable, it gives you a number of options; i.e.,
- Gmail sends mail in plain text, and not HTML as some broken services (*cough*Hotmail*cough*) do. This is good.
- Gmail still doesn't seem to have POP or IMAP, either incoming or outgoing. Which is going to make downloading one's mail tricky.
Aside: This site has some concerns about Gmail's privacy implications. Granted, the somewhat eccentric graphics on the site give off a paranoid-crackpot vibe; however, some of the issues raised are concerning:
If Google builds a database of keywords associated with email addresses, the potential for abuse is staggering. Google could grow a database that spits out the email addresses of those who used those keywords. How about words such as "box cutters" in the same email as "airline schedules"? Can you think of anyone who might be interested in obtaining a list of email addresses for that particular combination? Or how about "mp3" with "download"? Since the RIAA has sent subpoenas to Internet service providers and universities in an effort to identify copyright abusers, why should we expect Gmail to be off-limits?
Does anybody know whether the RIAA or an equivalent agency would have an easier time ordering Google to hand over a list of all people with the words "mp3" and "download" in their mail than they would of ordering an ordinary ISP to give them access to customers' mail spools? (Mind you, the latter happened in Australia; ARIA did get access to student mail at various universities.)
Someone calling themself octobersurprise.net is running this poll:
Currently "Osama bin Laden captured" is the clear leader, with more than twice the votes of the second-most-popular option, "spectacular terrorist attack on US soil". (via jwz)
The latest salvos in the War on Intellectual Property Terrorism: Paypal have unilaterally suspended donations to Freenet, an underground crimeware project allowing data to be distributed anonymously with no provision for law enforcement monitoring, thus providing a safe haven for paedophiles, terrorists and dissidents living under oppressive regimes. Freenet is not technically illegal (except perhaps in Japan), though appears to be being de facto outlawed and driven further underground through third-party sanctions. You can still contribute to Freenet by using E-Gold, an alternative online currency favoured by heavily armed anarchist militia whackos and the tinfoil hat crowd.
A well-researched refutation of recent claims that Europe is being transformed into an Islamic society by waves of Islamic immigrants and their higher birth rates. The dire predictions of the impending Islamicisation of France tends to be based on simplistic straight-line extrapolations of current birth rates, ignorance of the effects of exogamy and assimilation, assumption of a single Islamic ur-culture capable of defeating the decadent liberal culture of the natives, and a good dose of alarmism and jingoism:
Americans who use these arguments are motivated mainly by schadenfreude. Are European countries skeptical about the Bush Administration's foreign policy goals? Could they be interpreted as at least sharing some interests with Muslim countries. We see this in Bat Ye'or, for instance, as she condemns a "Eurabia" created by Muslim immigration which has made Europe suicidally anti-Israeli. ('Suicidally," since anything Israel does is necessary for its defense and ultimately the defense of Europe.) We see this in Little Green Footballs, where nationalistic American posters say that the French will be under shari'a law because these decadent immoral people refuse to have enough children to keep Muslims from inheriting the country. They--sometimes just the French, sometimes the French with the Germans and Belgians, sometimes the entire continent--refuse to support us in our war against Muslims. Accordingly, they will pay the price, and see if we will save them from their short-sighted stupidities this time. Their opposition to our rightful crusade contains their own punishment. FrontPageMag's treatment of Spain, following the Popular Party's recent electoral losses, is a classic example.
(via Charlie's Diary)
A former teacher blows the lid off the real functions of schools; sounds somewhere between a Situationist pamphlet and a New Waver sound collage: (via NWD)
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
This part makes some sense (and reminds me of a claim I heard that the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was behind the modern education system's emphasis on unstructured rote memorisation of facts rather than critical analysis; the former makes useful worker drones, whereas the latter can breed revolutionaries and troublemakers. Mind you, it wouldn't surprise me if the source of the claim was some Marxist or anarchist pamphlet.)
Point 5, however, is a bit more paranoid.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
Granted, school is a brutal, high-intensity pressure-cooker environment that brings out the worst in its inmates, and I can buy the theory that it conveniently serves the purpose of instilling conformity and social cohesion (though, these days, TV, short attention spans and medication also help); however, the claim that it's designed to act as a system of psychological eugenics to keep the unfit from breeding is a bit harder to swallow.
This may be true or may be apocryphal, but it's scary: apparently, the U.S. conventional arsenal has, as a last resort, a supply of cobalt jackets to be placed around missiles in the event of defeat. The jackets will effectively turn the missiles into dirty bombs, contaminating wide areas; they are kept at arsenals worldwide.
"They're for a situation where the U.S. government is crumbling during a time of war, and foreign takeover is imminent. We won't capitulate. We basically have a scorched earth policy. If we are going to lose, we arm everything with cobalt--and I mean everything; we have jackets at nearly every missile magazine in the world, on land or at sea--and contaminate the world. If we cant have it, nobody can."
If the United States (in whatever form it takes) goes out of existence, that could mean the extinction of all life on Earth. This means that this civilisation, whose culture is intellectual property manufactured in Los Angeles and beamed around the world by satellite and whose dominant species is the corporation, in whose guts we are all but microorganisms, has the means and a strategy to be the last one.
Alternatively, this could be disinformation to discourage people from agitating against the system too much (if its collapse could mean the extinction of all life, then any evils and iniquities in the system are, by comparison, endurable). (via Gimbo)
Ultramagnetic is a fork of gaim for paranoids. While gaim is designed to let you chat with your friends on several different instant-messaging systems at once, Ultramagnetic is designed to allow you and your anarchovegan agitator comrades, anti-NWO militia buddies and/or fellow UFO conspiracy researchers to communicate without Them watching you. It uses libcrypt and Hacktivismo's 6/4 anonymous routing protocol. No idea whether it looks like AIM/ICQ or whatever else under all that or whether it interfaces with the overt IM networks at all. (via bOING bOING)
The latest in street fashion: the No-Contact Jacket, a fashionable women's jacket of "exo-electric armour" which, when armed, delivers a powerful though non-lethal electric shock to anyone who touches the wearer.
The jacket is designed for women only. Its small size and narrow armholes are intended to prevent men from using it as an offensive weapon. Whiton conceded that women could use it offensively, and that it would be hard for police to arrest anyone wearing one.
The jackets are expected to cost US$1,000.
(Potential for offensive use? Two words: "dwarf tossing".)
Blogging has now become more paranoiac-friendly with Invisiblog, a new online blogging tool devised by cypherpunk cryptoanarchist types. Invisiblog uses anonymous remailers for posting, making it (theoretically) impossible to trace their authorship (except, of course, by the NSA's quantum supercomputers, but they can probably read your thoughts before you post anyway, and already know that you've been a very naughty boy/girl/android).
After 9/11, governments quickly pulled formerly public information and restricted areas of scientific publication to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. Now DARPA, the US Department of Defense's research funding body has cancelled funding for OpenBSD security research because open-source software could help terrorist nation-states. Is this an isolated incident, or the start of a governmental purge of open standards and open-source software, and the start of a "national security"-driven shift towards proprietary standards kept on a strict need-to-know basis? After all, if Cisco, Microsoft and TRW hold the keys, the reasoning goes, Saddam Bin Laden can't use the technology to kill us. And replacing publically documented standards and open-source software with secret black-box technologies has numerous other advantages, from surveillance hooks to catch more terrorists, paedophiles, tax cheats and miscellaneous troublemakers to tremendous "peace dividends" such as end-to-end copyright enforcement and whistleblower-proof rights management for documents; not to mention handsome dividends for the shareholders of the keepers of the keys.
A Chicago man has been committed to a mental hospital for promoting the tapes and materials of satellite radio conspiracy show host Alex Jones. Fair call, or proof that mental health laws are a tool of fnord the reptilian Illuminati used to silence anyone trying to alert the sheeple to their loathsome baby-eating ways? (via NWD)
(Jones may be best known for having investigated the Bilderberg Conference with Guardian journalist Jon Ronson; Ronson found a bunch of rich old men indulging in a somewhat pathetic frat-boy party, whereas Jones found Satanic rituals and human sacrifice in the same events. Go figure.)
The amusing account of a journalist who listened to the entire 24-CD Throbbing Gristle box set in one sitting.
Worried that if I just sit around my flat listening to Throbbing Gristle all day, I might start baying myself, I venture outside. This proves to be the biggest error of judgment I have made since embarking on the project in the first place. It's difficult to know exactly what would be the ideal activity to engage in while Throbbing Gristle provide the soundtrack. But I can reveal that shopping in central London is not among them. A journey by Tube is even more like a descent into some netherworld of the damned than usual. The heaving crowds of Oxford Street, nerve- jangling at the best of times, are rendered nightmarish.
An interesting WIRED article about E-Gold, an anonymous, gold-based online payment system which can be used to buy everything from EFF memberships to ammunition to cheap books and flag-burning kits (not to mention shares in pyramid schemes and online gambling). It has a related denomination called the E-Dinar, based on an Islamic gold standard defined in the Koran, and for all the anarcho-libertarian kudos it gets, it owes its existence to a radical Islamic sufi sect sworn to the cause of eliminating the evil of paper currency and destroying capitalism:
E-dinar's British COO, Yahya Cattanach, and his family share a communal condo with Castiñeira in the comfortable Jumeirah district of Dubai. The company's Spanish president, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, is also the president of the Islamic Mint. And finally, uniting all three men - as well as e-dinar's Swiss CEO, Malaysian CFO, and German CTO - is one crucial biographical datum: All are high-placed members of the Murabitun movement, a modern, Western offshoot of Sufi Islam and possibly the only religious sect in history whose defining article of faith is a financial theory.
A global gold-backed Islamic currency may not be so far-fetched. Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad (best known for berating Australia for its racist commitment to pluralism and intolerance of "Asian values" and such, and denouncing currency trading as a Jewish plot to destroy the economies of Muslim nations) has proposed a global "Islamic trading block" based around the gold-backed "Islamic dinar", which would instantly make E-Gold the currency of a big chunk of the world.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League, the pressure group best known for releasing a list of "hate symbols" including the "peace" and "anarchy" symbols and the Wiccan five-pointed star, has warned that E-Gold is a terrorist tool; then again, aren't open 802.11 access points and MP3 sharing networks also a terrorist tool? Is anything not a terrorist tool these days? (via vigilant.tv)
Via FmH, two more paranoid than usual links; firstly a guide on how to disappear in America without a trace, much of which is probably quaintly anachronistic. Though the gist is, if they really want to find you, they will, no matter what you do.
Satellites can bounce LASER light off of your windows and, by measuring the minute distance differences between a vibrating window and the satellite, reconstruct your speech -- from orbit! I don't know how much this process costs yet it was demonstrated for PBS some years ago so it may not be all that expensive. The quality of the audio is poor but it can be understood.
Given Moore's Law and the dropping costs of high technology, it's not all that far-fetched to imagine that this sort of thing is now being used on deadbeat dads and people with overdue library books; or if it isn't, will be soon.
Secondly, a somewhat more academic and less Loompanicsesque paper on surveillance techniques and countermeasures, with a catalogue of 11 types of strategies against surveillance:
A common form of switching involves certification transference: A ticket, entry card, license, entitlement or identity marker belonging to someone else is used. South Africa provides an unusual example. There, welfare payments can be obtained from ATM machines. The recipient enters the correct information into the computer and offers a thumb print for verification. A colleague reported one enterprising family that collected welfare payments long after an elderly relative had died. They cut off her thumb and continued to use it.
A more subtle form involves conversational ploys in which a surveillance agent is duped into believing that a machine is invalid. Consider the story told me by a Russian. A family coming back from a picnic is stopped by police and the driver fails a breathalyzer test. He protests, "That's impossible, I haven't been drinking, your machine must be broken. Please try it on my wife." She also fails the test. The man gets even more insistent that the machine is broken and says, "Please try it on my young daughter." She is tested and also fails. At which point the police officer, doubting his own machine, lets the man go. The man later remarks to his wife, "That was really a good idea to let her drink with us.
Writing in invisible ink is a familiar children's game and it has its' adult counterparts, although these may rely on bad science. Thus, a bank robber was identified and arrested in spite of rubbing lemon juice on his face because he had been told that it would prevent the surveillance camera from creating a clear picture.
(Of course, these links are provided for the curiosity and interest of law-abiding readers only. If you're an al-Qaeda terrorist, drug user, MP3 pirate or other criminal, please do not follow them. We thank you for your cooperation.)
The strange, intensely paranoid world of Mafia, a former psychology experiment turned parlour game popular amongst writers and the like.
Here's how Mafia works: The party gathers in a room. Everyone is instructed to close his or her eyes, and three people are secretly selected to be in the "mafia" by the game leader, known as "God" or "the Mayor," whose job is to manage the action. No one knows who the mafia are except the mafia themselves, who are allowed to identify one another by opening their eyes. Later, when the whole groupcalled "the village"collectively opens its eyes, they are launched into the game: Through conversation, argument, questioning and accusation, a freewheeling group inquisition takes place to root out the mafia and kill them before the mafia kills the villagers.
(via bOING bOING)
It turns out that the black boxes labelled "Fear" on the New York Subway were an art project, by a student from the New York School of Visual Arts. The artist in question will be charged with public endangerment, becoming another casualty of post-9/11 paranoia.
"Terrorists are the last true performance artists." -- Laurie Anderson
"The greatest surrealist act would be to point a loaded revolver into the crowd and then fire at random." -- Andre Breton
Unknown prankster, performance artist or random lunatic tapes black cardboard boxes labelled FEAR to walls and girders of Union Square subway station in Manhattan; police evacuate station, fearing terrorist attack. This reminds me of the case of the paranoid schizophrenic who taped vials of water to lamp posts in Milwaukee, to detect a radio station broadcasting into his head, two years ago.
The US Department of Homeland Security says open 802.11 access points are a national security threat, intends to mandate strict access controls. There goes that un-American "sharing" idea again.
A man in the US is facing 3 years in prison for dissecting his daughter's guinea pig on September 13, 2001. Benny Zavala claims that he believed that the guinea pig was a camera-equipped robot placed in his home by government agents. (via rotten.com)
The Target chain in the US has withdrawn a range of streetwear believed to bear neo-Nazi insignia. The baseball caps and baggy shorts in question bore the numerals "88", believed to be "white power code" for "Heil Hitler". (Or perhaps Chinese numerology for good luck?) Are anti-racism groups jumping to paranoid conclusions, or did Target really stock neo-Nazi skate shorts? And when will someone do something about Microsoft Wingdings? (via New World Disorder)
Psychalking is a hobo-language for paranoids to communicate with each other about dangerous mind control hot spots. Interesting start, but they could do with some signs for the different alien races and thought-stealing TV celebrities. (via psychoceramics)
Do you suspect that your neighbour may be a terrorist? Take this test and find out if your suspicions are true. (via Charlie's Diary)
Take a stroll down your street. Which houses are missing the appropriate decorations for the time of year? Which are missing a well-decorated Christmas tree and lights? Which do not have Fourth of July decorations? Which are missing an American flag? (this is an obvious sign of a terrorist's house.)
(How to determine if your co-worker/neighbour/spouse/brother may be a terrorist (Australian version): ask them which football team they barrack for. If they answer, ask them to name the team captain and several players. If they are unable to provide answers, they may be a terrorist sleeper agent.)
Happy citizens of McWorld: no need to fear terrorism, when you can learn to kill terrorists with Coca-Cola cans; and more neat tricks, as anti-terrorism instructors will gladly show you (for a fee and proof of US citizenship).
(I sense a new marketing campaign in this: Coke for Freedom. Perhaps with ads in which sassy US-flag-wearing skater kids defeat vaguely terroristic meanies with Coke cans.)
But how can you identify a terrorist?
"They'd have black hair," one student offers. "Brown skin."
"They probably wear those kinds of shirts you button up at the neck," another says.
"Usually they got brown eyes. They might act nervous. Or maybe they'd show no emotion at all. You know, they sometimes have those dead eyes."
Though Middle Easterners, chronically nervous brown-eyed people and others are perhaps understandably concerned at the prospect of red-blooded patriots preemptively dealing out two-fisted "justice".
"I was on a fight where the pilot came on the radio, telling the passengers we have plenty of weapons at our disposal -- blankets, shoes, pencils," recalls Carol North, the psychiatrist. "It's a little unsettling when you are about to take off." She worries about what could happen if people misread something like mental illness as suspicious behaviour, and there is certainly a new risk for anyone who looks or sounds like they are from the Middle East.
David Brin on the five memes that shaped the planet on a deeper level: feudalism, machismo, paranoia, "the East" and neophilia (which Brin terms the Dogma of Otherness). (via the Horn)
Routes of Least Surveillance: A group of civil libertarians has created a map of New York showing routes with the fewest surveillance cameras.
"We've designed iSee to be useful to a wide range of ordinary people," said an IAA operative who declined to be identified. "The demonstrated tendency of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) operators to single out ethnic minorities for observation and to voyeuristically focus on women's breasts and buttocks provides the majority of the population ample legitimate reasons to avoid public surveillance cameras."
"The advent of sophisticated face-recognition technologies are further reasons to use iSee. They will allow companies, private investigators, and journalists to browse video databases for footage of spouses, employees, and neighbors engaged in perfectly legal, but nonetheless private acts like attending job interviews and psychiatric appointments."
Expect it to become a big hit with dissidents, adulterers and the aluminium-hat set, before possibly being shut down lest it help potential terrorists.