Agreement of the displaced

The other day I went to the “Policy Exchange”… This is one of the most effective think tanks in UK politics and other arenas too.
The discussion today was really about “HackGate”, what it means to the media industry, what rules exist regarding the press, and what  if any, will be imposed in the future…
Now, the room was small, packed (albeit close to empty when I got there), there was food laid on and yet, no coffee :-(
London was forever bustling and this summer’s tourism was in full swing.
Now, the panel was made up of a (now) former political news editor of New of the World, an MP and former press sec to David Cameron, modern-day freedom and rights fighters and American – Heather Brooke, along with Joanne Cash (a media barrister), Mike Granatt – Former Head of the Government Information Service and former Director of Communications at the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office, all brought together by the Gabriel Milland former hack and now Head of Press at the Policy Exchange.

Now while most of the meeting is watchable below, there were some interesting Issues.
Firstly, the rules in the UK regarding the press are some of the tightest in the world… In many respects they’re too tight, basic information such as police incident and court reports are indeed almost impossible to obtain with any ease, which is surprising as they’re really generally considered news worthy and often in the public interest. But while this may well have been an aid to catalyze the present situation, little was said with regard to the laws that were/are broken to obtain sometimes the most basic of information.
This in no way excuses anything! But several things came to mind while watching, listening and observing…
In the regards of Phone tapping and hacking, especially regarding politicians and Royalty… aren’t the Security Service (aka MI5) supposed to keep an eye on things like that, as it is effectively, well……… espionage!!
Something Joanne Cash mentioned was the problem isn’t the rules – but the sheer lack of teeth to enforce and punish. But again, when you have police and others in the pay of the perpetrators this can’t be too easy.

The general talk was odd to me because there was an underlying belief that the Newspapers stood for something, and I simply believe they don’t!! They lost that mandate a while ago. There was a real feeling that the institution will last a thousand years, yet I felt like I was sitting in a room of people who were oblivious to their impending appointment to sign on at the local Job Centre as newly unemployed.
The newspapers in the UK, like many around the world, for the most part won’t exist in 10 years, not unless they slim down their staff considerably and opt for something we can’t get from the internet by then.
Even on the way home, I was standing at Oxford Circus watching a guy setting up a stand for the now free London Evening Standard… people were walking right by! And when I got to the tube station there were two guys almost pushing the newspapers into your hands… So here, right in front of me was the proof the newspaper is dying and doing so fast. I certainly wish I had thought to video it, but might at a later date anyway.

Nevertheless there was a good point made; “what is a journalist?” When is a blog a journal and so on…?
Now I went to this meeting because it was flashed up on Twitter. My thoughts were; if they change the rules, what does that mean for new media and more over – Me….
But the interesting thing was this lack of understanding that many simply get their news from the internet – like you…
I don’t own a TV, I don’t and don’t need to buy newspapers – I get it ALL from the internet, everything; news, entertainment, fun, laughs, organising work, meeting up with people and of course a little online shopping, smut and communicating with friends and around the world generally…

But what of freedoms? What of these so-called journalists? What of the rules? The lack of teeth?

Well I write this blog, I do not earn money from it, I have a fake listing on Who-Is and unless you know me, you don’t know who I am, where I live and you certainly don’t have my phone number…
I can and sometimes do say what I want, I don’t go out of my way to lie, and when I’m hard on people, I generally do it with very much a tongue in cheek. I also invite people to raise a complaint so I may rectify any issues – something modern media does NOT do…

Yet I’m free to write what I want, with a fair degree of impunity, I’m not chasing circulation or sales… Yet what of modern media?

The modern printed press mimic the televised entertainment interest, in doing so and in the desperate pursuit of readership they have for the most part sold their integrity down the line… A few don’t in the specialised sectors, but unless you do not own a TV, Radio or are on the internet – then the modern newspaper (once the cutting edge) is all you have. They simply provide gossip, TV listings, sport and games while at work.  In fact, in this area alone they haven’t fully embraced the market “need and want” at all – yet they believe that uncovering the odd scandal justifies everything. But really – it’s just a fast cash return they want and need…
Some papers will survive 10 years, the FT, and humorous political journals and magazines… The rest will be for the web or TV (which will be web based completely soon). In the last few years, visual and net media has grown, thousands upon thousands work in all these fields alone and so any future of the printed press is all but over

As for phone hacking, well on a landline your phone is simply two small wires, intercept that anywhere and attached a £20 recorder and you’re away – oh and those wires are normally Blue/White and White/Blue as a general rule…

But it’s easy to work out what has gone on, they DO it, they haven’t ever been really caught, so they kept on doing it, more and more and I’m sure it probably still goes on because people wouldn’t expect it now. But they have been caught, and now they’re sorry…
This frankly does not cut it!!  yet I can see how easy it can become the norm. People listen in on phone lines all the time, least of which are actual telephone engineers and of course in the UK – GCHQ (the UK equivalent to the NSA). Both of which can trace their beginnings back to Bletchley Park.

And as for which papers do and don’t do it – I doubt very few haven’t used information from these sources…

So the bottom is this:

The laws exist… simply enforce them!! We have specialist departments for dealing with this too.
As for police corruption – sorry, that’s totally inexcusable and the higher the rank of the taker… means that every man and woman in their charge effectively loses the mandate and authority to act – it’s THAT serious!! Because how do we know the bent copper hasn’t given out erroneous orders to the bobby on the beat?

The newspapers have had their day! New media is already several hundred times better and you get it a whole day before!!

The concept of the Press Pass has to be completely re-thought in light of the moving times and as such all main stream news will be TV/Web based.

As for people like me? I don’t need to tap or hack anyone – just learn better written English. I’m guessing I was the only former trucker, free blogger, telecommunication, IT and net design engineer, electrician, qualified bricklayer, trained soldier and unemployed person in the room.

The Discussion at the Policy Exchange (sound isn’t great)

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I’ve something to say about “Spies R Us”… aka Bletchley Park, home of the Hackers, Crackers and Code Breakers

In 1989 I worked for British Telecom (BT)… the role I was initially recruited for was as an underground heavy cabler… As such we had to learn about various skills and dangers and bits and pieces of how to winch, pull, rod, rope and turn cables over huge distances through underground ducting, across bridges, in lakes, dams, coal mines, remote hill top locations and down your street.
As such there were only a few places in the entire world where you could learn this skill and one of them was British Telecom’s Technical College Bletchley Park…

What happened at Bletchley apart from learning a new set of skills of hauling optical fibre and copper cables up to 4800 pair, meeting trainees from the USA, Canada, Asia etc – was finding a fascination with the place…
There wasn’t anything really there to tell you of its history, but for the most part the ornate gardens, grounds and buildings were all operational and well looked after.

Yesterday I stepped foot back on the grounds of Bletchley Park.. once home Mi:1 (later Mi:8) and the true birth place of GCHQ and what ultimately lead to the start of the NSA…

So… What is Bletchley really?
Yes it’s where the code breakers worked… yes, later the code breakers for the US worked there and then began a much deeper US/UK relationship which has continued to at a similar level ever since.

But the most significant thing is what you’re looking at to read this article!! The Computer.. (I say that because you may be from a country that was not involved in WWII)

This issue knows no patriotism, it, while once a technology of utmost secrecy, is now a technology where you and I, the end users, roam about the ether without a visa, at the speed of light and in the realms of the internet are all most members of a reasonably governmentless new world…
Whether we use the computer for work, shopping or simply for communication, it does not take long to understand its pitfalls, gain friends globally and learn it’s abilities and more importantly its strengths…

Now add this to the following information:

Bletchley Park was the home of the world’s first programmable computer (Colossus).
The work carried out there by the Code Breakers, by intellect and by computer is known to have shortened WWII by a minimum of 2 yrs, most likely 6 yrs.
There is actual reason to assume now that without the work of Bletchley, the war would have ended in a stalemate!!
While initially a British only thing, the information was soon shared with our Allies and very quickly the USA came on board and later expanded the work considerably with over 300 US intelligence staff working at Bletchley Park at one point.

What does that mean in real terms…
Well if WWII lasted 6 yrs at the loss of around 84,000,000 lives – shortening the war by any length of time saved a hell of a lot of lives… So many lives in fact that had it have not done its work, some of you reading this would have simply never existed in the first place!!
So in real terms on a pro-rata basis in saving lives =

2 yrs = 28,000,000
3 yrs = 42,000,000
4 yrs = 56,000,000
5 yrs = 70,000,000
6 yrs = 84,000,000

Staggering isn’t it…. Of course we’ll never actually know….

But what we do know about Bletchley Park and only more recently seem to realize is that while its work on the war effort was one thing, huge infact – the relevance to our lives today is immense…
You see, the old cliché of “The first casualty of war is the truth” is very real… and with every single industrial revolution of modern history – we forget the true roots of it all..
Yes, from the work that has become legend of modern pioneers like Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Bill Gates and so many others – little homage has been paid to where it all truly started.

And Bletchley Park isn’t the only site to have made a significant break through in history – and these places need preserving also. But what of Bletchley today and more over – what are the multi billion dollar companies doing to preserve this level of modern history?

Bletchley today is open to the public, its assets decimated by BT when it relinquished control of the site with the shameful selling off of assets in the most disgusting example of cut-n-run you’re likely to ever see and something they should be made to do something about or at least be held accountable for.

It is run mainly by volunteers with an affinity with the place, but in order to keep its doors open it has almost reached the point of soul selling – and that isn’t pretty!!
The displays are based on what they can afford and that isn’t much.  Even the gift shop is a sad cry for sell anything if people will buy it!!
To me it is not in anyway a family site, it is historic geekdom… Infact talk to several people who have been, other than the odd item to do with the code breaking and the worlds first programmable computer – the rest can strike boredom even in the most intellectual of minds!  Frankly, while that remark pains me to even hear it – it is nonetheless a point of view given to me… However, talk to someone else and they said their entire family went and loved it to bits… So it really is up to you to make your mind up.

Bletchley Park IS NOT and should not be a WWII theme park, it is and should be only about Code Breaking, its impact, what was achieved there, what was innovated and where the world is today because of computers and how they came into being.

Can it be improved – YES!!! But that’d take cash and a lot of it – and a real road map to what should be there…
It should on the outside look just like it did in the days it was operational… but underneath it should be an advanced learning centre… yes the introduction to the Enigma, yes, learn about the code-breakers and what they did…
But then it needs to turn uber geek and have a tech centre built in a secluded spot whereby the entire history of computing can be shown – but NOT as a set of static displays… unused computer equipment is simply static junk – it all needs to work and have a degree of “hands-on” ability. But when you drive up to the gate, you should see guards dressed and armed as they were back in the day, and the windows should be taped etc. The public should feel as they’ve genuinely walked into another world, the world of the Code Breakers themselves.

It is here where real networking started, where the computer made it’s first leap forward and it’s here where there should be the greatest collection of this industrial revolution!!
Not piles of old junk, not modernising a site to modern health and safety laws – but a real living breathing reproduction of its heyday.

So what has our multi billion dollar “do anything to make a buck” computer, IT, and software companies done to help (other than the odd one like Google)?

NOTHING!!!

Don’t get me wrong here, I back anyone who did it for themselves, I respect their innovation and guts to do all they have achieved… But when is enough money enough??
Yup, all these CEO’s can enjoy their earned lifestyles etc – but to not honour in any way the thing that ultimately made them their money??? It’s a bit like the baby who has just been born jumping up and head butting it’s mother in the face.

Bletchley Park should to all intents and purposes be made a UN World Heritage Site, it has to be restored, protected and also become the ultimate learning resource… the site needs innovation, conceptual design that is hidden away. It needs to be hands on and have enough money to pay its staff.
It needs the greater industry to donate 50% of one day’s bank interest from their fortunes so that this site can be honoured developed and set its history in stone..

No, there are no national and BS patriotic issues here, it needs its greedy fat assed off spring to stand up and be counted, to stand with some level of courage, commitment and more over – the self respect to step up to the plate.

It needs physical help too!! Yes from the companies who have staff who worked or developed modern super computers to be on-site to show the world what they did, how they took and industry forward through their own innovation.
IBM, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Adobe, Samsung, Texas Instruments – and this list could go on and on…. But Bletchley should be the home of not only the Code Breakers – but the site of a global industry show case and meeting point.
A place of collaboration, innovation and a place the entire world can see where it came from and marvel at the concepts of where it’ll go.

I’m ashamed of the lack of investment, the lack of enterprise and more over the complete and utter lack of organization and imagination of industry into the place, a place I actually like! The people at Bletchley Park, well they’re working hard, but with hands tied behind there backs. As for the overall real vision, cutting the wheat from the chaff and remaining focussed, I don’t know – it’s hard to achieve as much that needs to be done with little more than a shoe string.
I will say that NOTHING makes me more appalled than the gutless  blind eye turned to an industries roots and birthplace  – by the very industry itself and one I’ve worked in most of my life.
So, if the industry has ANY level of self-respect, has ANY balls…. Feel free to apply yourselves, offer 50% of – or better still, a whole days company bank interest, – use this as an opportunity of show casing yourselves…

The hard work and dedication of the team at Bletchley and Dr Sue Black is a testament to how important this work truly is… these people have my respect and their hard work, enthusiasm is, while outstanding,  an immense wake up call of people striving to do something, to work against impossible odds for the benefit of us all.

So… is there anything “we” can do? Yes be there for the weekend of the 21-22 May to show your support…

One final note:

Contrary to the Bletchley Park website  image below…. the cost of an adult visit is NOT 10 pounds – it is 12… and while I have now scrolled about to find the parking fee – there is one and it’s 3 pounds

To be clear about this, this is the first Bletchley Park Google result link… the Site has been updated and you should (until previous cache’s have been cleared) go through the website main portal to gain the latest information in order to prevent confusion and possible frustration:  http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/. Clicking HERE or on the image below will take you to the present prices page and the most accurate information at the time of writing.

 

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