Archive for January, 2012
So we’ve looked at how they’re dreadful and why. The stakes are important; a huge chunk of the economy is made up of services, and some of the places where they are located are becoming almost as much one-industry towns as they were before their one industry shut down. What if this sector was as productive and as valued as Rolls-Royce? (Especially as, all things considered, it is quite difficult to use them as a weapon of war, rather as the role of the orchestra in counter-insurgency is limited at best.)
We have the technology. Ticketing systems are as mature as anything gets, and a reader of this blog was moved to say that every software developer has at least once tried to write their own. Web-voice integration is a hugely creative field at the moment. Things like Fonolo and the Networked Helpdesk Protocol (API docs are here) show what can be done.
But the big issue is management, and I think expectations. People expect the experience to be terrible. People expect the job to be status-reducing and generally horrible. People expect that because it’s a cost-centre, there’s no way to improve it other than flogging the slaves harder.
Dear Lazyweb, has anyone seen a data series showing the forecast for the UK government budget? Or will I have to download all the Treasury statements and re-chew it?
Quick-hit update to the Baluchistan/US/Iran post; Daniel Drezner has a crack at rounding up the news and comes pretty close to arguing that the Americans are trying to stop the Israelis getting them into a war with Iran. Akbar Ahmed argues, in a must-read, that things in Baluchistan have been getting much worse lately and that this is very bad news for Pakistan, and it’s all the government’s fault. And US-Israel anti-missile live fire exercise gets called off.
Reading through tehgrauniad’s riots deep-dive, the impression that I get is that the whole “riots as an insurgency” idea wasn’t that far off. I’ve been indisciplined in that I took notes but didn’t keep links (a problem with paying for and reading the actual newspaper), so you’ll have to trust me on this. Obviously, blaming the whole thing on “criminality” is about as useful as blaming rain on “water falling from the sky”.
The first common factor that struck me was that pretty much everyone they interviewed had a grudge against the police. Not in any broad theoretical sense, but a grudge – a specific and personal memory of perceived injustice and especially incivility, cherished over time. Now, it’s in the nature of policing as a public service that nobody enjoys it. If you’re interacting with policemen on duty, it’s either because they suspect you of being a criminal, or because something bad has happened to you. Generally, everybody would quite like to minimise their lifetime consumption of policing.
There is something that motivates people to put up with it, though, and that something is legitimacy.
The second common factor was the attitude towards property. Quite a lot of the people the Guardian spoke to reported looting goods from shops, and then giving them away, or witnessing others doing so. Stealing goods is one thing, but immediately giving them away is rather different and very much a political act. So much so that there is a word for it (and I’m not the only one to notice this).
Of course, police legitimacy comes in a very large degree from their role as protectors of property, so this was a way of directly challenging their claim to provide security and to employ legitimate force.
Eyewitnesses often described a tactical, practical implementation of this – small groups of rioters harassing the police, in a sort of screening or covering operation, while many more looted or destroyed property. It’s very interesting that this could all happen so quickly.
Following up on the earlier post about IMSI catchers and shopping malls and Hezbollah, I wanted to link to a really excellent piece in Le Monde about mining call-detail records (“fadettes” in French, from “facture détaillée téléphonique”). The URI, here now leads to an annoyingly cutesy 404 page. However, the search function turns it up and even shows it as being free…but the link it returns doesn’t work.
How much of a bastard was Jack Straw again? This much.
Scotland Yard has opened a criminal investigation into secret MI6 rendition operations that resulted in leading Libyan dissidents being abducted and flown to Tripoli where they were subsequently tortured in Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons….The year after the joint UK-Libyan operations were mounted, Straw told MPs they must disbelieve allegations of UK involvement in rendition “unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States”.
Everyone’s linked to Mark Perry (of Conflicts Forum/Alistair Crooke fame)’s piece on Israeli spooks running around Baluchistan posing as the CIA already, but I will too as it’s very interesting indeed. I’m not sure what their bag in this is, other than the notion of “always escalate” and hope to profit from the general confusion.
But what’s really interesting is what the story is doing out there now. Here’s Laura Rozen’s write-up, which introduces the suggestion that they may have represented themselves as being from NATO and notes that a leader of the organisation said as much on Iranian TV before being executed. Meanwhile, the Iranians write to the Americans accusing the CIA of being behind the assassination of another nuclear scientist.
On Twitter, she suggests that the scientist wasn’t killed by the Americans (i.e. presumptively by the Israelis, or by people working for them wittingly or otherwise), and that this was staged specifically to queer the possibility of reviving the Iran-Turkey uranium swap deal. (You do wonder what George F. Kennan would have made of diplomatic tweeting.) Further, we know that a back-channel has been set up.
Disclosing information about the Israeli operation in Baluchistan might be a smart way of establishing trust between the US and Iran. Obviously, information about terrorists running about blowing stuff up and killing people is of value to Iran. Information that it’s the Israelis is obviously congenial to Iran. Crucially, burning an Israeli spy network is costly to the Americans and not something they would do lightly (the Perry piece is a monument to important people trying all they could to do nothing). In that sense, it is a meaningful signal – much more convincing than mere words. Presumably, Perry’s role at Conflicts Forum and with Arafat makes him a convincing postman into the bargain. And third-party spies are just the sort of thing that enemies can bond over. I recall reading about the IRA and the UVF staging a joint investigation to find informers in the early 1970s.
Another dose of speculation – if Baluch rebels were meeting with people who they thought were from NATO, was this plausible because NATO was in fact paying them off to leave the Karachi-Quetta-Kandahar supply route alone?