Posts Tagged ‘Whistleblowers’

Frontiers Magazine on Robot Weapons

October 23, 2016

The popular science magazine, Frontiers, way back in October 1998 ran an article on robots. This included two pages on the ‘Soldiers of Tomorrow’, military robots then under development. This included drones. These are now extremely well-known, if not notorious, for the threat they pose to privacy and freedom. The article notes that they were developed from the unmanned planes used for target practice. They were first used in the 1960s to fly reconnaissance missions in Vietnam after the US air force suffered several losses from surface to air missiles. Drones were also used during the Cold War to spy on the Soviet Union, though instead of beaming the pictures back to their operators, they had to eject them physically. They were further developed by the Israelis, who used them to spy on their Arab neighbours during their many wars. Their next development was during the Gulf War, when they broadcast back to their operators real-time images of the battlefields they were surveying.

Apart from drones, the article also covered a number of other war machines under development. This included remotely operated ground vehicles like SARGE, and the Mobility Module and remotely controlled buggy shown below.

robot-army-cars

SARGE was a scout vehicle adapted from a Yamaha four-wheel drive all-terrain jeep. Like the drones, it was remotely controlled by a human operator. The top photo of the two above showed the Mobility Module mounted aboard another army vehicle, which contained a number of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition sensors. Below it is a missile launcher fixed to another remote-control buggy. The article also carried a photo of a Rockwell Hellfire missile being launched from another of this type of adapted vehicle.

robot-army-car-missile

Next to this was a photo of the operator in his equipment, who controlled the Tele-Operated Vehicle, or TOV, as the developers were calling such machines.

robot-army-car-operator

Another of the machines described in the article was the Telepresent Rapid Aiming System, a robot gun designed by Graham Hawkes and Precision Remotes of California as a sentry robot. As the article itself notes, it’s similar to the tunnel machine guns used by the Space Marines in the film Aliens. It could either be operated by remote control, or made fully automatic and configured to shoot live ammunition. At the time the article was written it had already been tested by a number of different law enforcement agencies.

The only vaguely humanoid robot was the Robart III, shown below.

robot-solider

This machine was able to track a target automatically using its video vision, and possessed laser guidance to allow it to be operated remotely. In demonstrations it carried a pneumatic dart gun, capable of firing tranquillizer darts at intruders. In combat situations this would be replaced with a machine gun. It was designed to be used as a mechanical security guard.

The article also stated that miniature crawling robots were also under development. These would be used to creep up on enemy positions, sending back to their operators video images of their progress. If such machines were mass-produced, their price could fall to about £10. This would mean that it would be easily affordable to saturate an area with them. (pp. 56-7).

The article describes the state of development of these machines as it was nearly 20 years ago. Drones are now so widespread, that they’ve become a nuisance. I’ve seen them in sale in some of the shops in Cheltenham for anything from £36 to near enough £400. Apart from the military, they’re being used by building surveyors and archaeologists.

And while robots like the above might excite enthusiasts for military hardware, there are very serious issues with them. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and Jimmy Dore have pointed out on their shows that Bush and Obama have violated the American constitution by using drones to assassinate terrorists, even when they are resident in friendly or at least non-hostile countries. Despite all the talk by the American army about ‘surgical strikes’, these weapons in fact are anything but precise instruments that can kill terrorists while sparing civilians. The three programmes cited, along with no doubt many other shows and critics, have stated that most of the victims of drone attacks are civilians and the families of terrorists. The drones may be used to home in on mobile signals, so that the person killed has been someone using their phone, rather than the terrorists themselves. Others have been worried about the way the operation of these weapons through remote control have distanced their human operators, and by extension the wider public, from the bloody reality of warfare.

Way back in the first Gulf War, one of the French radical philosophers in his book, The Gulf War Never Happened, argued that the extensive use of remotely controlled missiles during the war, and the images from them that were used in news coverage at the time, meant that for many people the Gulf War was less than real. It occurred in Virtual Reality, like a simulation in cyberspace. Recent criticism of the military use of drones as killing machines by whistleblowers have borne out these fears. One, who was also an instructor on the drone programme, described the casual indifference to killing, including killing children, of the drone pilots. They referred to their actions as ‘mowing the lawn’, and their child victims as ‘fun-sized terrorists’, justifying their deaths by arguing that as the children of terrorists, they would have grown up to be terrorists themselves. Thus they claimed to have prevented further acts of terrorism through their murder. And they did seem to regard the operation of the drones almost as a video game. The instructor describes how he threw one trainee off the controls after he indulged in more, unnecessary bloodshed, telling him, ‘This is not a computer game!’

And behind this is the threat that such machines will gain their independence to wipe out or enslave humanity. This is the real scenario behind Dr Kevin Warwick’s book, March of the Machines, which predicts that by mid-century robots will have killed the majority of humanity and enslaved the rest. A number of leading scientists have called for a halt on the development of robot soldiers. About 15 or twenty years ago there was a mass outcry from scientists and political activists after one government announced it was going to develop fully autonomous robot soldiers.

I’m a fan of the 2000 AD strip, ‘ABC Warriors’, which is about a group of robot soldiers, who now fight to ‘increase the peace’, using their lethal skills to rid the galaxy of criminals and tyrants and protect the innocent. The robots depicted in the strip are fully conscious, intelligent machines, with individual personalities and their own moral codes. The Frontiers article notes elsewhere that we’re a long way from developing such sophisticated AI, stating that he did not believe he would see it in his lifetime. On the other hand, Pat Mills, the strips’ writer and creator, says in the introduction to one of the collected volumes of the strips on the ‘Volgan War’, that there is a Russian robot, ‘Johnny 5’, that looks very much like Mechquake, the stupid, psychopathic robot bulldozer that appeared in the strip and its predecessor, ‘Robusters’. None of the machines under development therefore have the humanity and moral engagement of Hammerstein, Ro-Jaws, Mongrol, Steelhorn, Happy Shrapnel/ Tubalcain, Deadlok or even Joe Pineapples. The real robotic killing machines now being developed and used by the military represent a real threat to political liberty, the dehumanisation of warfare, and the continuing safety of the human race.

Vox Political Calls on DWP Staff to Oppose IDS’ Persecution of the Poor and Sick

March 10, 2015

Mike posted this piece, DWP employees: Do the right thing – because Iain Duncan Smith never will, calling on DWP staff to obey the dictates of their conscience and start collecting information on the sheer viciousness and brutal determination to destroy the very lives of those the benefits system was set up to support by their master. It begins

The effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘welfare reforms’ should, by now, be plain for all to see: Increased poverty – including child poverty, the torture of starvation for people who have been sanctioned off of benefit and cannot afford food, hopelessness, despair, suicide.

We saw the signs as long ago as 2012, when the man we call RTU (Return To Unit) and SNLR (Services No Longer Required) launched his famous rant on the subject against Owen Jones.

This blog reported it at the time: “Irately wagging his finger in Mr Jones’s general direction, he barked: ‘We’ve heard a lot from you. I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration. We are changing their lives; I’m proud of doing that. Getting them off-benefit is what we’re going to do.‘”

Establishment figures like David Dimbleby, it seems, wanted us to take this at face value – that the Secretary-in-a-State was going to put people to work (whether they liked it or not).

Now we know that wasn’t what he meant.

He meant he was going to force people off benefit by perverting the system in the worst way possible. He was going to order his staff to find any slight excuse to inflict benefit sanctions on society’s most vulnerable.

Mike itemises the various ways the system of sanctions has made the situation of the poor much, much worse. Like trapping them in a cycle of debt, torturing the innocent, using fraudulent and illegal reasons to find any pretext for throwing people off benefit. His staff are so callous, that they have actually asked those suffering from suicidal thoughts why they haven’t committed suicide. And finally left the homeless to die of cold and starvation in the street.

IDS will never stop this persecution and victimisation himself. He must be forced to do so by the people below him.

Mike goes to urge them that

It is time to start copying information. Iain Duncan Smith will want to cover up all his dirty little secrets and it is likely that his shredder will be working day and night if he thinks someone else might discover any inconvenient truths.

If there are any inconvenient truths, then as servants of the country – rather than servants of the Conservatives or the Secretary of State – it is your duty to collect this evidence, preserve it and bring it forward after he has been ousted.

Nobody can order you to do this. Undoubtedly you will be discouraged from doing it; there are likely to be rules that say you must not, invoking the same national interest that Yr Obdt Srvt is invoking here.

This is a matter for your conscience.

Do you think Iain Duncan Smith and his associates should be allowed to go unpunished for the harm they have caused?

Do what you think is right.

The article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/03/dwp-employees-do-the-right-thing-because-iain-duncan-smith-never-will/

There have already been a number of courageous whistleblowers, who have had the honesty and integrity to denounce the lies in RTU’s administration. These include former Atos personnel who revealed the existence of the quotas they were given for throwing people off benefits. Others have shown the weird system of incentives the department uses to encourage its staff to sanction people. Like Easter eggs, and even ‘marshall’s badges’, of the same type I can remember getting as small child as part of a Milky Bars’ promotion. There’s nothing wrong with Milky Bars, except, perhaps, the usual dangers from eating too much chocolate. There is, however, everything wrong with the DWP and its cowboy management.

I have to say, though, I am not hopeful of Mike getting much a response from this post. It seems to me that the rot has gone too far, and those with any shred of self-respect, integrity, or simply competence, have departed the DWP long ago. Those who are left are the cruel, the callous, the vicious, the incompetent and the bullying. Exactly like their master.

But please, if there is anyone out there concerned at the way twenty years of maladministration has corrupted the system, then PROVE ME WRONG.

Vox Political: Government Making PIP Applications More Difficult

February 8, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political also has another story about the government moving the goalposts again to stop disabled people claiming the Personal Independence Payment. It’s PIP reviews and tribunals: The DWP keeps piling on the pressure. It’s partly a follow-up to Mike’s previous post about how Atos told Mrs Mike that she had to come for an assessment, which on inquiry nobody seemed to know anything about. He goes further, and reports the experiences of two of his commenters, who have tried to claim PIP, one of whom was called before a tribunal. It begins

Further to yesterday’s article on the hoax letters being sent out by (in this case) Atos, summoning benefit claimants to non-existent “assessment” meetings, a couple more developments have come to light.

Firstly, Mrs Mike has received a new letter stating that her assessment has been cancelled and she doesn’t have to attend. This writer shall be going in any case – just to make sure.

Secondly, it seems matters get worse if you are unlucky enough to be denied benefit after an assessment. What follows refers to Personal Independence Payment. First, let’s hear from a commenter who had to go through the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ procedure:

“With the help of my local CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau), I made an application for PIP. As is normal, they refused it. The CAB explained they would, and requested a ‘Mandatory Review’.

“Under the old system, they would write a letter stating their reasons why the decision is wrong. Now, though, Atos will not accept this.

Atos has now resorted to phoning up PIP claimants unexpectedly at different times of the day, so that they will have to present their case unaided and without representation. This is obviously in order to make it easier to turn the claimant down.

The other commenter provides a grim portrayal of the stress caused by their appearance at an Atos tribunal, and the complete inability of the woman, who turned down their application for benefit, to understand even the most basic facts about mental illness. Such as that you can plan ahead, but later changes in the condition may mean you forget. This commenter states

“For anyone with mental health issues to have to go through the PIP claim process, Atos assessment and ultimately a tribunal, it is unbelievably cruel and careless. I have been extremely distressed today.

“I am also not going to find out for a few days due to my appointment time being so late in their working day, which is also upsetting.”

It’s worth checking out the comments on Mike’s blog, because many of the commenters have experience and technical knowledge that can help others. This piece is no exception. Particularly useful are the comments from Beret54 and Levinas.

PIP: Derby Mental Health Group Want to Hear From You

Beret54’s comment is that a mental health group, Derby, is appealing for information from people, who have undergone the PIP assessment. He writes

THE mental health action group derby is shortly to launch a survey form on experiences of PIP and present evidence to DWP will post link to survey when its launched soon,
Mental Health Action Group Co-ordinators
Room 312, Kelvin House
RTC Business Park, London Road
Derby. DE24 8UP

Tel: 01332 345966 ext 5
http://www.mhag.org.uk
Check out our Facebook page “Mental Health Action Group Derby”!

Levinas on Legal Challenges to Atos

Levinas also provides this advice for the two claimants:

The first claimant should invoke the Equality Act and reasonable adjustments in that it is discriminatory to the claimant to expect them to
1- Make representations using a device that in and of itself puts them at a disadvantage due to their disorder/difficulties and
2- to do so without representation they’ve secured being there to represent them. Again invoke EA to secure their presence.

They won’t like it, will argue against it but stick to invocation of reasonable adjustments under the EA to refuse the use of a telephone for contact and lack of representation Equate the representation to the use of a wheelchair or crutches to expose how discriminatory it would be to refuse, comment that it opposes justice to have this thrust upon them. They could also send an email revoking any consent given to release Atos from the DPA and reassert their rights, ergo Atos is not lawfully allowed to hold, nor use your home phone number-All communication therefore will have to be via letter as address is all they can hold. This is how I tackled Atos and WCA for ESA, I’ve not had the hurdle of PIP yet.

Second claimant-Is it usual to have the decision maker at the tribunal? Again I’ve only had to attend ESA tribunal hearings but this sounds somewhat ominous to me. Were they on the panel? I doubt they could legally be if independent and wonder if sent by DWP to oppose the claimant? I’ve had DWP turn up to oppose, think it might be usual when there’s a big award at stake. Again argue the case, hopefully with representation and support, to give you breathing space from the DWP rep.

This is proof that Atos and the DWP are as nasty as ever, and if anything getting worse. But hopefully pressure from groups like DPAC, the Disability News Service and the new Derby people will keep the pressure up and force them either to change, or make things so difficult for them they’ll want to lose the election.

Wildthing66 also advises claimants to get angry with the assessors and threaten them with leaving in a body bag. It worked for them at the Jobcentre, apparently. I wouldn’t go that far, as it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to charge anyone, who adopted quite such an aggressive approach with threatening behaviour. However, they are bullies. One of the DWP whistleblowers has said that quite, meek individuals will get sanctioned, whereas a 6 foot brickie won’t, because they’re obviously physically afraid of the brickie. So, it’s important to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be walked over, as difficult as that may be.