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February 23, 2012

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guthrie

If capitalist firms need a government handout to employ people, they aren't doing their job right.
Yet I don't hear many people complaining that the companies are badly run, rather they prefer to moan about jobseekers being lazy.

bert

That it's being defrauded by the people hired to run the scheme is just the icing on a shitcake. I like the fact that she's a tsar rather than just an external contractor. A tsarina, in fact.

The cake itself was prepared by the previous government. They told themselves that it was part of their scandinavian progressive welfare agenda where people were offered a way back into the world of work. All the time it was a subsidy to employers at the expense of the in-work low paid.

If, when you're kicked out of office, you leave a bunch of loaded weapons lying around, can you be too surprised when the shooting starts? And the running and screaming follows?

CMcM

If, when you're kicked out of office, you leave a bunch of loaded weapons lying around, can you be too surprised when the shooting starts?

See also: Academies, Free Schools etc.

guthrie

NHS reforms.
But my MP has been arrested for assault in the house of commons Strangers bar. It seems they didn't even let him out on bail. Now I understand that people have the urge to assault tories because of what they are doing, but he has allegedly given in to such urges.

bert

Ah, as of this afternoon she's no longer a tsar. She's lucky she didn't have a knighthood or they'd have had that off her too.

redpesto

But my MP has been arrested for assault in the house of commons Strangers bar. It seems they didn't even let him out on bail. Now I understand that people have the urge to assault tories because of what they are doing, but he has allegedly given in to such urges.

I'm imagining it was him versus Rory Stewart, only with (perhaps) more clothes and no open fire.

guthrie

Skidmarx - once again, satire is closer to the reality:

"Alcohol awareness campaigners have insisted that the incident is yet further proof of what can happen when you give a room full of pricks access to subsidised booze.

Spokesperson Geraldine Matthews told us, “It doesn’t matter what sort of reprobate is doing the drinking, whether they be a chav, football thug or elected official – the outcome is always the same.”

“Drunken violence.”"

(My apologies to the MP's who work hard for their constituents and don't cause any trouble except for their political masters)

ajay

Off topic, but anyone who hasn't read "GCHQ" yet should; it's highly readable and has lots of disturbing anecdotes about what's been flying round in circles over Bradford recently.

Strategist

Call me a pedant, but isn't the difference between the cat & rat farm and A4E that A4E's system worked and they made big money? (Until rumbled and they all go to jail.)

I think the first is a closed system but A4E's had an external input - a fuel line from DWP hosing them down with cash. Or am I missing the genius of the analogy?

Strategist

I just got it.
It's the government who bought the cat & rat farm off A4E.
Jeez, I'm thick sometimes. I shan't question the genius of B&T again!

Ken MacLeod

What's "GCHQ" in this context?

I know this sounds stupid. I Google the letters in quotes and get, uh, GCHQ, which I'm not sure is what you're recommending us to read.

'In democratic Britain, GCHQ reads you!'

chris williams

Is it the book by Aldrich?

john b

Ici: http://www.amazon.co.uk/GCHQ-Richard-Aldrich/dp/0007278470

CMcM

I've been left off of the circulation list re any disturbing anecdotes about things flying over Bradford, and would welcome enlightenment

guthrie

The internet suggests there have been UFO sitings over Bradford in 2009 and 2010. Perhaps they are UAV's?
Or do you mean more recently?

Alex

There is a capability to do airborne electronic intelligence over the UK, beyond the RAF's Nimrod R1s, using Islander and King Air planes. The King Airs are deployed to Afghanistan, but the Islanders are right here (Northolt iirc). Not formally secret but certainly not well known or widely discussed.

ajay

"I know this sounds stupid. I Google the letters in quotes and get, uh, GCHQ, which I'm not sure is what you're recommending us to read."

Ah, sorry. Yes, Richard Aldrich's book of that name.

According to Aldrich, they've been running Nimrods over Afghanistan to pick up voice traffic off the Taliban's unsecured walkie-talkie network, picking the recordings with Midland or London accents, and then sending the voiceprint information back to the UK, where the Islanders fly around over Bradford etc hoovering up mobile phone conversations in bulk from the microwave towers and looking for matches (who would, presumably, be British Taliban who have come home to do a bit of damage back here).

Amazon's Search Inside feature gives you the story if you look for "Bradford".

Richard J

Which reminds me of my reading this morning - Cities under Siege by Stephen Graham.

I've got a lot of sympathy with the underlying argument in its basic form (the worrying tendency for militarisation of urban design and control), but it suffers from a habit of making strong factual statements backed up, in the footnotes, to discursive essays by well-known pomo philosophers, and a surprisingly naive attitude towards taking assertions made by the MI complex about the technical capabilities of biometric analysis, at face value etc. - 250 pages in and 'false positive' hasn't been mentioned once, AFAICT. One particularly awful section goes on for five pages about how dreadful it would be for completely automated hunter-killer robots, and how dreadful it is that the US armed forces are going to be introducing these without actually offering any evidence that they're considering this, or, haven't, in fact, themselves spotted the rather obvious flaw in such an approach.

(Ner-

ejh

So will this appear with a strikethrough?

Richard J

Shit The missing text was meant to note, for the benefit of gamers, that Lt Col David Grossman gets positively cited.

Barry Freed

One particularly awful section goes on for five pages about how dreadful it would be for completely automated hunter-killer robots, and how dreadful it is that the US armed forces are going to be introducing these

Well, I can't vouch for the book, but the movie was pretty damned good.

Also, I'm sure they'll not forget this cautionary tale anytime soon before introducing Skynet.

Cian

haven't, in fact, themselves spotted the rather obvious flaw in such an approach.

Given that this is the US military we're talking about, I think we can take it as a given that they won't. Though it can probably also be taken as a given that the hunter killer robots will neither hunt, nor kill - so it probably all evens out.

That mobile phone monitoring story sounds incredibly implausible. Why not simply monitor calls to Afghanistan from the UK? Cheaper, easier, more accurate. Plus you have a number, rather than a voice print (which are inaccurate at the best of times - but far worse when dealing with mobile phone compression and the vagueries of satellites).

Barry Freed

Wasn't this all supposed to be what Woodward's new top secret game-changing tech was that he was writing about a few years ago? (Not really so far off topic if you consider the 9/11 wars to be the ultimate military-industrial cat and rat farm.)

ajay

That mobile phone monitoring story sounds incredibly implausible. Why not simply monitor calls to Afghanistan from the UK? Cheaper, easier, more accurate.

But returned British Taliban who are plotting mischief might not be making very many phone calls to Afghanistan. The bit that puzzled me was using an Islander at the UK end rather than just a ground station.

What we need here is a Yorkshireman with a deep knowledge of mobile phone technology.

Richard J

And able to explain why, if they're looking for people with London and Midlands accents, they're flying over Bradford.

guthrie

Well obviously Bradford is the centre of Islamic terrorism in the UK.

Cian

Oh I misread it, they're monitoring walkie-talkie radio traffic in Afghanistan. Still, seems unnecessarily complex at the UK end. Plus I'm really skeptical that the voice print recognition technology is anywhere near the level required for this to work. Voice compression and analog noise really throw these kinds of algorithms off.

The only thing that I can think of is that it takes too long to locate a number using a ground station.

ajay

I'm really skeptical that the voice print recognition technology is anywhere near the level required for this to work. Voice compression and analog noise really throw these kinds of algorithms off.

I was surprised by that too - according to Aldrich, though, voiceprinting is a reliable tool of the trade and has been for some time. It's not implausible that GCHQ is well ahead of where the civilian world has reached.

Also, of course, they won't be so worried about accuracy: even if it's not at the standard of being used for positive IDs, it's probably OK for investigative work.

dsquared

I can believe it with respect to voiceprinting - at the end of the day, even after the noise and compression, I can identify people by their voices over the phone, so the information is still, in some sense, "there".

ejh

voiceprinting is a reliable tool of the trade and has been for some time

Looking forward to the wrongful convictions already...

Cian

Also, of course, they won't be so worried about accuracy: even if it's not at the standard of being used for positive IDs, it's probably OK for investigative work.

Equally its possible that the management at the top who have invested significant sums in these technologies have convinced themselves that this is true.

Cian

I can believe it with respect to voiceprinting - at the end of the day, even after the noise and compression, I can identify people by their voices over the phone, so the information is still, in some sense, "there".

Bad analogy.
a) You know what these people's voices normally sound like, rather than trying to identify a voice that you've only heard over a CB. So you have good data to work with.

b) Your sample size is quite small (people within your normal circle of acquaintances) - you're not trying to uniquely identify a single voice with a Bradford accent.

You're also not trying to identify a single voice from a large and fairly homogenous group (Asian males in Bradford, or whatever).

It just screams high positive rate. I guess with a lot of resources you could get it to work, but there have to be easier methods.

Charlie W

The cat and rat farm also gets an input: people buy the cat fur. But as I see it: (a) the main role of the cat and rat farm idea is to provide something for business geniuses to shoot for and (b) if people were willing to pay way, way over the odds for cat fur, in the way that the government seems willing to pay over the odds to get people off the unemployment rolls, more people would have a go at setting up an actual cat and rat farm (trips to to the pet shop for extra rats could be written off as teething problems).

ajay

Looking forward to the wrongful convictions already...

Hence "Also, of course, they won't be so worried about accuracy: even if it's not at the standard of being used for positive IDs, it's probably OK for investigative work."

It's a filter - you get a hundred positives for voiceprint, you can take those forward to the next stage of investigation.

Chris Williams

I'm not ruling voiceprint out of hand: it's a linear and digital piece of information, and these can be sorted, filed and matched. There are going to be greater or lesser error bars in there, but it may well work as a filter. As it happens, I have just finished writing about this fact in the development of the Police National Computer, and why it was possible to make a very large database of fingerprints and car registrations, yet impossible to make any robust database containing MO data.

Why the Islander though? Why not the telco backdoors? Or is the Islander actually there to be seen, to keep the assholes off the air, and slow them right down? Yeah, Ajay, we need some comment from a clever Bradfordian with a unique angle on telecomms. Would that such a person exists!

Richard J

Why the Islander though? Why not the telco backdoors?

One mundane explanation that comes to mind is that it's easier to send the plane up than negotiating the bureaucracy and subtly incompatible systems that this would involve.

[The Father-in-law worked for C&W installing satellite comms dishes around the world in the 70s and 80s, incidentally. Getting him drunk once and talking about positive vetting led to a very interesting conversation.)

ajay

One mundane explanation that comes to mind is that it's easier to send the plane up than negotiating the bureaucracy and subtly incompatible systems that this would involve.

And more secret - no need to involve technicians etc at all the major mobile phone operators. Though the fact that we're all sitting round talking about it here implies that it's not that much more secret.

Chris Williams

Yabbutt, although we do in fact know what we're talking about, there are myriad other forums active today (and, alas, tomorrow) in which these and other state-security steps are being described as part of a melange which also includes mind control rays, chemtrails, and black helicopters, etc. We can talk as loud as we want: no third party will ever hear above the rest of the racket.

Alex

He's currently at a telecoms conference.

Richard J

Judging by your tweets last night, I suspect rather hungover too.

guthrie

Hang on a minute, could you not run this like a pyramid scheme? You 'employ' two or three (or however many necessar) jobseekers whose job it is then to bring on board a similar number themselves (good exercise in form filling and suchlike, no?). And so on until an appreciable fraction of the unemployed are tied up in a strange pyramid yet actually working for you and you rake in all the cash from the government.

ajay

guthrie has independently invented the plot of Keith Waterhouse's "Office Life", except that in the guthrie version British Albion plc is a PFI.

Richard J

If there's one thing that spending almost a dozen (Jesus) years in tax consulting has taught me, it's that there is almost certainly some chancers somewhere doing precisely what guthrie suggests.

Chris Williams

You need to incentivise the upper echelons of the pyramid: you can't just keep them as wage-slaves. But so long as a cut of bounty goes all the way up to the top, the Board will still be laughing all the way to the bank. Next stop: regulatory capture and manipulation of the target structure for maximum reward. Do this just right and you might even get paid to fail. Perhaps this could be done by franchising out regional chunks of the operation to other entities, paid by results, who would pick up the tab when it all goes tits-up, as you run out of jobseekers to recruit. This way you can afford to saturate the market in one region (probably Cambridge, ironically) _without_ the giant sucking sound so created destroying your profit margin in still-growing markets such as South Wales.

I'm wasted here.

ejh

But if you're into that stuff, why not just open an employment agency?

Chris Williams

Because employment agencies involve clients, competitors, and dealing with people who have a modicum of labour power. There's little or no opportunity to eliminate _all_ of those constraints, whilst also embarking on a subsidy-sucking PFI-fest of yachtbuying proportions.

Cian

I'm not ruling voiceprint out of hand: it's a linear and digital piece of information, and these can be sorted, filed and matched.

Voice print is fine, its the source material I'm questioning. Walkie Talkies will give you poor quality sound data, combined with an unusual (for normal phone conversations) collection of phrases.

And that's only the beginning of your problems. I would expect the false positive rate to be very high, and there not even to be any guarantee that your guy would be in the net.

I'm not disputing that they're using it (in fact given the apparent quality of their intelligence, who would), I'm just skeptical that they'd get the results they're expecting. Just as face recognition has been a total failure. Or for that matter, just as finger print recognition (an easier problem) is far less successful than the hype would have us believe.

john b

It's a filter - you get a hundred positives for voiceprint, you can take those forward to the next stage of investigation.

Yup, it's just a filter, like ID parades or polygraphs or DNA or graphology. So there is absolutely no risk at all that investigators will become irrationally convinced of the evidence's reliability, nor that such cases will reach court, nor that hackish expert witnesses will talk it up. That's good to know.

Chris Williams

John, you're conflating ID parades and DNA, whose reliability is reasonably well known (40-60% and 9x% respectively) and understood by judges, with polygraphs and graphology, which AFAIC have never convicted anyone in a postwar UK court.

(I put up a lovely response about fingerprints earlier on, but it vanished into the ether. Lovely, it were.)

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