All posts by John B

How to rebuild your credit rating

I wrote this as a response to someone on B3ta, but realised it might be useful for a wider audience:

First, get your debts cancelled, written off, paid, or otherwise disposed of. The Citizens Advice Bureau will explain this best. Don’t pay anyone anything for advice – it won’t be any better than the CAB’s free service.

With your debt cancelled, first get a Basic Bank Account (here) – these are offered by most major banks, even if your credit is unimaginably bad, and mean that you can get paid your salary into your own account and take out cash from machines. It doesn’t give you a debit card or an overdraft. If this goes OK, your bank should be able to upgrade to a debit card account, or at least an Electron/Solo card account, before too long.

In the meantime, if you’re confident you won’t be tempted to spend the money, then also apply for a ‘people with dodgy history’ credit card with someone like Vanquis Bank. This will charge you an eye-raping rate of interest, but the reason you’re getting it isn’t to borrow money: just buy a tenner’s worth of petrol on it once a month and make sure you always pay off the fiver minimum balance, which will demonstrate that you can be trusted with having a credit card and making regular payments (pay off the rest of the balance every three months or so, before it gets out of hand).

Make sure you’re on the electoral register, try and make sure your name’s on the electricity, water, phone bills, and try and get a contract mobile once you’ve had the bank account and the credit card for a few months (even if that means paying them a deposit). That should all help – but in the end it’s a waiting game.

By all means comment on anything I’ve missed or that’s ropey…

How dare you provide me with goods and services

B3ta’s Question of the Week is on banks and banking. Oddly enough, the consensus is ‘against’. However, someone called ‘Star Wars’ has a rather nice post going against said consensus, which distills most (not all) complaints that people make about retail banks and penalty charges:

I opened a bank account once in the full and reasonable expectation that the banking system existed entirely for my benefit. Because of this, I didn’t bother reading the paperwork I’d signed; nor did I take much notice about my credit cards, overdraft limit, or anything else like that. After all, when the banking system is designed around your personal needs, desires and proclivities, it’s up to the banks to keep up with you.

Or me, in this case.

So I am, of course, full of righteous indignation about the manner in which these huge corporations have utterly failed to give their undivided attention to me, and – worse – the way in which they have utterly failed to read my mind and sort out all my banking requirements on my behalf without my even having to ask them.

I’m also disgusted by the way that these businesses seem to think that they can behave as though it’s important to make a profit. What temerity! What kind of world is it when a bank thinks that it exists to sell goods and services and make money from those sales, just like any other business? After all, I think we’ve already established that the system is for MY benefit, and mine alone. I think it’s disgusting that they should be able to charge me fees just because I really can’t be bothered to look after my own finances. It’s not as if I get anything in return (except interest on my savings and access to loans when I need them – but they don’t count).

I’m steaming with rage about the way in which, that time when the ATM went mad and doled out free £20 notes, I had to repay what I’d been given by accident.

Personally, I blame the Illuminati, the Bildeberg Group (I don’t know what this is, but I’ve heard of it, and it sounds sinister) and the Jews.

Yes, I know that banks can sometimes mess up, lose thousands of pounds of your money, and leave you in the utter shit. This is entirely bad, even though such events are normally sorted out pretty quickly.

However, nearly all the stick they get isn’t from people like that: it’s from people who can’t be bothered to check whether they’re over their overdraft limit, and/or who’ve borrowed silly amounts of money so they can go to Ibiza and have a big TV…

Update note: this isn’t sticking up for investment banks, or mortgage banks who were busted by their innovative financing models. Nor is it criticising people who are angry as taxpayers about the money channelled into banking. That’s fair and right. Blaming the bank when you spend money you’ve not got isn’t.

Rewriting history, recession edition

Says Railway Eye, a cynical and Tory-leaning transport blog:

There is certain information that voters and taxpayers might reasonably expect a Government department to know.

Or at least have a reasonable stab at.

Such as just how risky NatEx’s very aggressive bid for the East Coast franchise was; bearing in mind that the previous operator had failed to deliver with a lesser bid.

This is a stupid, nonsensical myth. For one, GNER failed on the East Coast Main Line because its parent company Sea Containers went bust and hence the DfT didn’t have confidence in its ability to meet financial contingency plans – its revenues never fell short.

For two, four companies – the four companies who know the most about the UK railway market – bid similar amounts as National Express for the East Coast franchise.

Up until the end of 2008, I was working as a strategy consultant. I was quite good at it; one area in which I fell down (in management’s eyes) was my pessimism [*] about clients’ projections.

So, on a particular project I ran in Spring 2008, working with our economics unit – one of the most respected that there is, and one of the ones that’s now making doomsaying predictions about government debt (…’which we’ll gladly help you reduce, if you’ll take our advice on cuts’) – I got them to take the lowest possible scenarios for growth that anyone considered vaguely sane, and factor them in as a ‘worst case’ [**].

For the US, that was 0.9% growth for 2009. For the UK, I can’t find the figures, but it was in the region of 1% growth for 2009. UK economic growth is currently expected to be about -4% for 2009.

The point isn’t that my lot were inept. They weren’t; they were reflecting the negative end of what anyone capable of holding down a job at a bank, government, NGO or economics think-tank [***] considered plausible. Hence, for the Treasury, and for National Express, and for every other bugger, to base their expectations on growth in 2009 being a third of what it was throughout the early 2000s was reasonable, and sufficiently conservative that you actually had to fight (senior, older, previous-recession-experienced) people to get that much through.

And yes, it was wrong, and yes, the next few years are going to be painful as a result – but suggesting the decisions made when literally nobody who wasn’t mad thought we were going to have a proper recession were therefore stupid decisions, rather than good decisions that happened to be proved wrong based on information that wasn’t available at the time, is far stupider than the original decisions ever were.

[*] ‘lack of commercial something or other’.
[**] some of the partners had survived prior recessions, so we didn’t actually call it ‘worst case’. Which is probably just as well.
[***] this is not a high bar.

Yes nucular, no Tridentular

Supporters of nuclear weapons systems like Trident generally justify the cash by saying things like ‘dangerous world, Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad very bad men, we can’t just disarm’. Or, more cynically, ‘place on world table, we can’t just disarm’.

I’m not totally sold on this argument – after all, the US will continue to have nuclear weapons for as long as it has a military-industrial complex [*] – and anyone who we can’t defeat with our conventional forces is realistically also going to be a strategic threat to the Yanks, no matter how annoyed they might be with our lack of military spending. And ‘place on world table’ is awesome for a few hundred diplomats and politicians whilst making c.sod all difference to anyone else.

But let’s say it’s true: we need nuclear weapons to deal with global security threats and enhance our prestige. Fine – but I don’t think I’ve seen any coherent argument for why we need to spend £60-80bn on Trident, rather than achieving all the ‘potential for revenge’ and ‘woo, we’re a nucular state’ through a lower-tech programme like India’s – which would cost somewhere between 10% and 25% as much.

That would still give us ballistic and cruise missiles capable of obliterating anyone except for the US and Russia – who we wouldn’t be able to obliterate with Trident either, even if we wanted to (not least because most operational aspects of Trident are controlled by the US). Which ought to be enough, oughtn’t it?

Anything I’m missing…?

[*] which we don’t to quite the same extent.

Our aviation correspondent writes in

Following this research into GE-made Airbus engines cutting out in ice, he say:

So far as the GE-powered AF 447 is concerned, the potential woes go on mounting:

* Dodgy AF training for weather
* Failure to change course for weather
* Sensors buggered by extreme temperature and/or turbulence
* Avionics gave up – handed control to pilots
* Who were probably asleep when the woes started
* And probably were only two junior officers (captain on rest break)
* Engines vulnerable to flame-out
* Plane previously damaged
* etc., etc.,

I’m continuing to avoid AF.

I also note that the French authorities leading the search failed – despite having a nuclear submarine easily capable of deep-water searches – to find the black boxes that would have shown whether the crash was the fault of the French national airline, the French national aircraft manufacturer, or something mysterious and improbably neither-of-the-above. This is my ‘shocked’ face.

Update: Air France has great deals in international flights right now. See also: hotels in Xinjiang, greased-pig-racing weekends, Labour prospective candidatures, etc.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-12

  • Noting the correlation between ‘people who make noise complaints’ and ‘miserable bastards who’re jealous that other people get to have fun’. #
  • It’s one-to-one in my book. #
  • I’ve never made a noise complaint. It’s only noise, FFS: sleep through it, or kill yourself if you’re too pathetic to manage that #
  • Actually, that’s a lie: my ex once made me complain to a neighbour about noise. I respected her less for it. We broke up shortly after. #
  • Clearly if I were an honourable man who valued principles over domestic harmony, I’d have given the ‘sleep or kill self’ response #
  • RT @qwghlm Religion enshrined in law telling people what they can’t do one day of the week when most people don’t practice it – backwards #
  • Gibbering incoherent nonsense FTW: #
  • “If you imagined the most boring person ever there’s a good chance he’d be called Roger & come from Switzerland” #
  • Hard to not: RT @catdonnelly Is it not odd to hoover the tiles out front of your house in only pants, whilst simultaneously looking shifty? #
  • “a crisis they did not create” – perhaps, but did massively profit from the upside #
  • RT @uaf Cops swoop on BNP terrorists RT and get this trending! #theBNParetwats #
  • Fair point – RT @qwghlm @johnb78 @uaf Even alleged murderous fascists have the right to presumed innocence, surely? #
  • Can someone explain why locking this chap up is a Good Idea? – #
  • Loony win: #
  • Head still not quite right. Hoping early, sober night will sort it out. Apparently lost weekend isn’t the best followup to jetlag after all #
  • RT @themanwhofell Poor Michael Jackson. He is not The King of Pop. He is The Jonathan King of Pop. #
  • Off to Leeds at the weekend. First-class-return-for-£60-woo #
  • R Herring’s nicked iPhone experience reminds me of all my cop interactions – very helpful, despite trivial offence #
  • Makes me wonder about the right-whingers who think police never turn up, help etc – is it because they’re rude arrogant twunts maybe? #
  • RT @JonnyB Basically, all you have to do to get new followers is to talk in nouns. Wine, horse racing, flowers, garden furniture, porn. #
  • – yay, my allies aren’t as bigoted as the Tories; shame they’ve fuck all clue #
  • Good piece in @londonist on the ‘immigrants are taking our houses’ lie from @jonnelledge #
  • RT @CathElliott Letter to my 17yo daughter, in which D Cameron refers to adult female Tory candidate as a”girl” – #
  • Utter bollocks from C4 news: – cloning and intercepting GSM/CDMA mobiles = impossible outside the lab #
  • Voicemail hacking, downloading spyware, and bribing network engineers possible, obviously #
  • Sensible gov’t move to save money; Taxpayers Alliance objects: #
  • People who whistle, play YouTube videos out loud, or talk, in offices should all be hanged. Bring back the Victorian workplace. #
  • RT @johnbrissenden @STWuk Will Jack Straw prosecute himself under his new war criminals law? #
  • Making scallops and bacon. Oh yeah. #
  • Chinese government in ‘are corrupt evil bastards who fit people up for political reasons’ shock: #
  • Walked past a homeless guy who was singing “when I was young I thought life was so logical”. I said that’s Supertramp. He said ta very much #
  • In a better world, this kind of detailed investigation would be in the papers: #
  • Why is the only decent polemical investigative journalism now on blogs and in ageing rock mags ( )? #
  • RT @djbarker – The guy in this car just told me I’m not allowed to take his photo (via @qwghlm) #
  • Nicholas Penny in ‘is a dismal twat’ shock: (via @AdamBienkov) #
  • Haha RT @franksting: “11 Photos Where Black People Were Awkwardly Photoshopped In or Out” (via @mrpower) #
  • Across The Univers #filmfonts #
  • Zapf to the Future #filmfonts #
  • Madame Sans-Serif #filmfonts #
  • I Love Lucida #filmfonts #
  • Last Chancery Harvey #filmfonts #
  • Apparently these are the chaps on fire: #
  • #followfriday @mrpower @hungbunny @kara_simsek @preachypreach @blueprintmag @flashboy #
  • Epic (non-vandalistic) graffiti fun: – via b3ta #
  • Quite funny – – but no RSS feed so I’ll never see it again :-( #
  • Being part of a pub co-operative could be rather fun, anyone else upferit? (via @theblogpaper) #
  • In Bedfordshire. Wish this was a twee euphemism #
  • Looking forward to LFAT’s impassioned defence of Simon Bikindi #
  • mildly surprised to discover the festival i’ve been dragged to LEe #
  • mildly surprised to discover the festival i’ve been dragged to Leeds for is actually a school fete #
  • On the plus side, only 5 hours til Chumbawamba come on #
  • on plus side, a steel drum band of schoolkids is playing Teenage Kicks #
  • …and now One Step Beyond. Epic. #
  • too much wholesome enthusiasm. have gone to old man pub to drink guinness and eat scampi fries #
  • Back. more festivally & less schooly. ukeleles go! #
  • ukelele people covering Teenage Dirtbag in the style of the Sundays. Or I’ve taken too many drugs. VIEWER DECIDES #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

Tax proposal

A lot of moaning about corporation tax in leftie-blogland today, for no particularly discernible reason. How about this as a ‘no big corporation tax dodging’ principle to adopt at G8:

* All countries adopt the current UK system of charging the parent company tax at the national rate for its home country, with all tax paid abroad offset up to the national rate for its home country

* Only companies that agree to adopt the practice above, and to nominate a registered country as their home country, are allowed to list on regulated stock exchanges

* G8 ministers decide which countries count as ‘registered’, based on principles such as ‘don’t take the piss’, ‘aren’t Ireland’, etc.