Feared by the banks, loved by the gullible

In explaining how he avoided falling into the common liberal trap of supporting the Iraq war, Dan Davies listed the maximGood ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance“. The fact that all the main proponents of the Iraq war were lying like rugs about WMDs inherently casts doubt on the case for war, even if you believe that a war for regime change would have been justifiable in its own right.

I was reminded of this when looking at the website for the Robin Hood Tax campaign (the Robin Hood Tax is the new, nauseatingly cute, name for the Tobin Tax on financial transactions):

The Robin Hood Tax will not impact on personal banking or on retail banking. That’s because it targets a distinct area of bank operations – high-frequency large-volume trading, undertaken by financial institutions in the ‘casino economy’. 

If you change money to go on holiday, send remittances abroad, invest in a pension fund or take out a mortgage, you will not be affected by this tiny tax.

The Robin Hood Tax consists of a levy on:

financial assets such as stocks, bonds and foreign exchange, traded both physically and as derivatives (options, forwards, futures and swaps).

Hence, any money you change (whether for a holiday or for remittances) and any investments that your pension fund makes will, very obviously, be taxed under it. The tax will, definitely have a negative impact on ‘good’, non-casino-y transactions like people buying shares in companies to generate income for their retirement, or companies converting euros from their export sales into pounds.

This doesn’t, in and of itself, make the Robin Hood Tax a bad idea. That negative impact could well be outweighed by the benefits of the revenue raised and of dampening the speculative excesses of the global financial system (I’m sceptical of the latter: we all know with each successive crisis the speculative excesses of the GFS turn out to be concentrated in areas that aren’t regulated or taxed or indeed understood. But that’s for another day).

But the tax’s proponents are simply lying that the negative consequences for the real economy simply don’t exist, rather than acknowledging them and saying that the benefits are larger. And that definitely triggers my Iraq filter.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-03-21

  • Sarcasm aside, seems fair skills-wise -> RT @davecoleDOTorg
    Salary for Palace of Westminster lift attendant: £17277 Salary for MP: £64766 #
  • Sitting on world's most excellent view-featuring balcony. Shortly off to remote island for camel rides. Later will fish for oysters. Oh yeah #
  • Any occasion that involves A. Gilligan being roundly told to get lost is delightful. Hence, this is delightful: http://bit.ly/9kR61i #
  • This I like: http://twitpic.com/18t8xh #
  • Great and sad news – the Koala is moving on: http://goodaftermornings.blogspot.com/ #
  • RT @bloggerheads: David Cameron's head on a stick http://bit.ly/9ihbJd now charting. Please 'favourite' or rate it now to kick it up further #
  • Tasmania is beautiful. Like Wales, but with sunshine. Quick #ebz before bed, then another day of outdoors http://fallenlondon.com/c/35803 #
  • RT @timoreilly the end of publishing as we know it. http://bit.ly/atqhR9 Watch to the end (via @bengoldacre) #
  • Superb piece from @Heresy_Corner on His Holiness The Pope (spoiler: she's not a big fan) – http://bit.ly/aKOQt0 #
  • This is ace. If you had any spare time, you now don't: http://www.bbc.co.uk/onlyconnect/quiz/ #
  • What % of people opposing lack of MP scrutiny of copyright bill were also outraged by Tories forcing MP scrutiny of 3rd world debt bill…? #
  • (I support anti-vulture plans and oppose copyright plans, but that shouldn't affect one's views on procedure…) #
  • We found this chap's card in a café in Cygnet, TA – he's perhaps the most promising new author of a generation: http://bit.ly/c7R6WD #
  • This is not my country, but The Editors are right: http://bit.ly/avd6ki – see also, Anyone Who Doesn't Think Keeping The Tories Out Matters #
  • Actually, I'd go further than that. Anyone who publicly criticises Labour or the LDs over the next 3 months is pro-Tory, and can piss off #
  • I'm not a Labour supporter, but we have an FPTP election pending, and in a Lab/Tory marginal anyone with a soul should vote Lab. #
  • In other consituencies vote for meh, whoever, but anyone who's even slightly progressive/not evil should fucking do this shit #
  • Task for next week: work out which crook is paying these crooks to publish this bullshit – http://bit.ly/azgot9 – reads rather like Spiked #
  • Much as I love the Tube and hate the Tories, closing pointless ticket offices now that everyone has Oyster is actually Not All That Bad… #
  • …alternative is cutting services, cutting refurbs, cutting new trains, raising fares, all of which are rather worse. #
  • For any halfwits thinking of voting Tory because of Labour illiberalism – http://bit.ly/cXoGBv – send-14-year-olds-to-jail-for-shagging-w00t #
  • #ebz Back from Tassie's wild west coast, into the worlds of Internet reception http://fallenlondon.com/c/37559 #
  • is hung over. Yes, I know it's 7:20pm here. This doesn't make me happy either. #
  • Linkous and now Chilton: Not a good month for depressive substance-fond jangly indie types. Hope someone's keeping an eye on Bobby Gillespie #
  • I wonder how much "we won't hang your guys" affected the price RTZ paid…? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8575737.stm #
  • Paralympic Cricket Joke: "was that an LBW?" "Well, not technically, but it did hit the stumps…" #
  • All iPhone apps are gay, so not sure what the issue is here -> RT @MayorWatch New article: Tourism bosses unveil Gay London iPhone app #
  • RT @slideshowbrain
    I'll follow @Patrick_Myles FF's because I trust his brain – Hello @PeterDixie @lilmamisayo @timabrahams @Dion_Star #
  • Steve Hodder-Watt is an arse; whilst I love my new adopted country, its willingness to appease his kind is distressing: http://bit.ly/9DK7Xm #
  • ("his kind" refers to litigious, humourless pro-censorship gits of any race, religion or creed, obviously) #
  • This is good, from young Mr Hari – http://bit.ly/d1HH3D – also applies to my Enyclopedia Dramatica comment from earlier #
  • This doctor deserves 10,000 medals for EXCELLENT SKILLS: http://bit.ly/9lCW11 #
  • #ebz Back in civilisation, & my wireless modem works. Well, Hobart Airport, which is almost civilisation http://fallenlondon.com/c/38131 #
  • Hurrah for juries: http://bit.ly/bQ1qg0 #
  • Christing hell, in a normal banana republic, media sucks balls of the government, not the assholes trying to take over: http://bit.ly/bwBWBv #
  • Venezuela = obvious exception – 1 of the things which makes anyone w/any decency feel some affection for maniac-in-charge #obviousparallels #
  • I love reading @diamondgeezer, but I hate (not solely related to him) this kind of paranoid lunacy http://bit.ly/dBdUYQ #
  • Yes, of course someone who gives a shit can steal your medical records. But unless you're actually Michael Jackson, nobody does. #
  • I think this is supposed to be funny and on S Singh's side, but both are purely based on contextual clues not the text: http://bit.ly/9wCGQ4 #
  • This isn't like my last Clarkson link – most of piece is nonsense – but final para 100% accurate: http://bit.ly/aG4tOF #campBAcabincrewrule #
  • Safari really is the most annoying browser ever. So glad I've got Chrome for day-to-day and Firefox for anything else. Would rather use IE7 #
  • If your name's Slaughter, probably best not get involved in the healthcare debate. The Slaughter Solution is a bit of a branding fail… #
  • Why's the BBC running a non-story about petty vandalism on its international news front page? http://bit.ly/91A5ZA #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-03-14

  • Halifax UK are the most annoying bank, out of all banks. "Try to transfer money to another UK account from abroad -> suspend account" – garr #
  • Delighted that the best film I've seen in the cinema in about five years won at the Hoscars, much as that reflects my cinema-going #
  • Coke Zero is following me. Yes, I like Coke Zero. Indeed, I drank it with lunch today. No, I'm not interested in Coke Zero's marketing feed. #
  • (yeah, as if there's anyone following me who doesn't already follow @chickyog – BTW, if there is, do) #
  • Eurostar's Facebook says "This year has seen the best snow on the alps for the last 10 years, why not take the ski train" *puts hand up* #
  • Steve Bell genius, as always: http://bit.ly/9i9cOQ (via @BeauBodOr) #
  • CROWDSOURCING: I'm considering flying to Singapore for cut-price laser eye surgery. Is this a really bad idea? #
  • This is excellent; I love the PIA/Switzerland poster -> RT @Patrick_Myles Graphic design blog and vintage archive http://grainedit.com/ #
  • #ebz A healthy, balanced day: beach, erudite debate, *and* buggering about on the Internet http://fallenlondon.com/c/32097 #
  • As far as characters to lead the UK to recovery go, how about http://bit.ly/9vs1Hl ? #
  • "It must be a middle class recession – the Job Centre have just launched an iPhone app." http://bit.ly/dCkFe7 (via @touchstoneblog) #
  • Even if you *actually see someone carrying a bomb*, you're still a despicable bastard if you call this Stasi-line: http://bit.ly/bftxia #
  • Up far too late, #ebz -ing myself to sleep http://fallenlondon.com/c/32774 #
  • This crazy screed highlights why many women refuse to identify as feminists: not the philosophy, but the company http://bit.ly/cQwqox #
  • The piece being attacked is badly written sub-hipster, but its basic message is Don't Treat Women Like Shit. Taking offence proves insanity #
  • I'm not normally on big corporations' side in libel suits, but I hope Facebook CRUSHES THE DAILY MAIL'S LYING ARSE: http://bit.ly/ciw1Fz #
  • RT @malbonster New post by me on the moral outrage/panic caused by Chatroulette http://bit.ly/cBZNKX (via @nathanmcdonald) #
  • #ebz Christ, I'm hungover. No dinner always a mistake. http://fallenlondon.com/c/33482 #
  • This is rubbish: http://bit.ly/9OWROZ – Griffin an odious cunt, but also a major political figure & interviewing him the right thing to do #
  • This, on the other hand, is excellent: http://bit.ly/apuHSE #
  • I was feeling a bit down (no reason, just late-night-meh); now I'm feeling thoroughly happy: http://www.b3ta.com/links/Boobies_Kittens #
  • This is rather delightful: http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/ #
  • Advertising policy duly updated, to reflect the fact that @JamesonCultFilmClub is in no way responsible for spamming DG. #
  • Stupidest film review EVAH: http://bit.ly/cUqZMJ – claims Hurt Locker a movie which ignores harm Iraq war has unleashed on civilians… #
  • Halfwit New York legislator plans to ban the sale of *all food*: http://bit.ly/diNinH #
  • I wonder if Mr E really believes the press should face no sanctions at all for lying – http://bit.ly/bQZMnV – or just lying about H Chavez? #
  • The only thing that annoys me more than libel law is its idiot defenders. "What if someone called you a paedo" – well, I'd ignore them, duh #
  • #ebz The manager of the Hotel offers free rooms to guests of particular note or interest. He irritably… http://fallenlondon.com/c/34008 #
  • Not very impressed by @leftfootfwd's report attacking LD plans to raise tax allowance – see my comment at http://bit.ly/bCo4V4 #
  • Weird fact: Zimbabwe and Nigeria both have higher Internet penetration than South Africa: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8552410.stm #
  • Distasteful sure, but harm done? Really? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/8564954.stm #
  • Quality, from M Tucker: http://bit.ly/brdNDN #
  • #2022 #FindPeopleInMyPostcode (was #N19 until January…) #
  • #oddquestions I wonder if you can't hashtag a number or whether you can't hashtag at the beginning of a tweet #2022 #
  • I no longer wonder. #
  • I hate RTing @iaindale, but this is fair -> Will @denismacshane and leftist bloggers now boycott the Guardian too? http://bit.ly/aXSDYt #
  • I guess "only ppl who're cleverer than Nick Griffin shld be allowed to interview Nick Griffin" is a coherent principle that could save us… #
  • Semi-literate hipster tool from the other day shows up and makes reasonable points; DMHFHF miss them: http://tinyurl.com/ #
  • (when creepy right-wing old men refer to men as "men" and women as "girls", it's bad; Foster v clearly someone who'd refer to men as "boys") #
  • Terry & Julie utterly screwed. Well, unless they have watches and/or mobiles: http://tweetphoto.com/14237447 (via @tellingtales) #
  • I ought to make clear, I strongly believe Iain Dale's a nasty piece of work. But also that Griffin is legit figure to interview for any mag #
  • Good that Toyota US not based in Michigan: in CA there's *some* chance they'll escape crucified for trumped-up charges http://bit.ly/csxQ3T #
  • "If Labour won again, bond yields are likely to rise quite quickly by about 0.5% to 1%" http://is.gd/atPag #insaneTorybeliefs #
  • Bedtime. Person of the day: Charles Todd – without him, you (non-Aus people) wouldn't be reading this rubbish: http://bit.ly/9SHNYn #
  • Time for 1 link: nasty combo of upper-caste Indian puritanism & bien-pensant BBC puritanism, vs India's funnest state: http://bit.ly/baTWJi #
  • Just in case you'd forgotten the Tories are a nasty bunch of bastards: http://bit.ly/dA9SCg #
  • #ebz or shopping? Hmm, tough one… http://fallenlondon.com/c/34546 #

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Advertising policy

When it comes to blog promotions, Diamond Geezer is a purist. I’m not.

If anyone fancies sending me a bottle of Jameson’s in exchange for a blogpost, it goes live the minute the grog arrives (and, using my Viral Drinks Marketing Analysis Skills, there is absolutely no way the grog being marketed in DG’s post is anything other than Jameson’s).

Purveyors of random links, online bingo and stationery are all still welcome to piss right off.

Update: I’m told by a reliable source that my Viral Drinks Marketing Analysis Skills have failed, that the grog being marketed absolutely isn’t Jameson’s, and that their viral marketing skills are way superior. I’m happy to admit and reiterate the first two points. I still don’t believe the point about the superior marketing, primarily because they haven’t offered me a free bottle of grog yet…

The joule in the crown

An excellent piece from the generally excellent Metric Views on food energy content labelling. A calorie is a nonsense unit that means nothing; a joule is a real unit that makes sense.

One of the things that I very much like about moving to Australia is that, for all its stereotyping as backward, the country has almost completely moved over to sane units of measurement. People talk about their weight in kilos, they drive kilometres, energy on drinks cans is stated in joules. Stupid measurements are a thing of the past, rather than having been retained to appease fogeys and xenophobic bigots.

For all my disapproval of democracy, I’d certainly vote for any party that promised to finish and enforce metrication in the UK. Particularly if the enforcement was on pain of death (wouldn’t it have been lovely had the Metric Martyrs [*] actually been burned at the stake?)

[*] or “swindlers who refused to display their goods’ correct prices”, as they should more accurately be called.

We love Admiral Scrumptious

Lord Adonis‘s retort to Boris on the Tube Lines PPP arbitration is quite superb:

Under devolution, it is for the Mayor and TfL to deliver the Tube upgrades within their generous budget – not for me to bail them out if they fail to do so.

If Boris wants me to take charge of TfL then he should say, and I would start with more sensible priorities like not cancelling the Western congestion charge zone and not replacing a modern bus fleet needlessly – both of which are costing Londoners hundreds of millions of pounds which could be spent on upgrading the Tube.

At some point, I’m going to post on why Tube PPP was a Good Thing (at least, given 2000s capital market conditions – it’s possible that credit availability over the next 10 years will mean that PPP/PFI is no longer as good an idea as it was during the Blair years). It boils down to “the government is committed to paying the money whether it wants to or not, rather than buggering about with the budget year-on-year as happened from 1945-1997″.

(yes, this kind of long-term commitment sacrifices democratic decisionmaking in favour of efficiency. As regular readers will hopefully have picked up, this blog has no moral attachment to the concept of democracy, or “rule by a mob of ignorant idiots”; the only reason I’m not actively opposed to it is the empirical one that other means of governance generally seem to turn out even worse.)

Being shouted at is your goddamn job

I never shout at customer services people. Literally never. Occasionally I mute the phone and scream; on very rare occasions I excuse myself from the physical situation and scream; but I’ve never shouted at a customer services person of any kind and hope never to do so.

In most cases, this is because they don’t deserve it. We’re all fully aware that customer services people are hired to follow rules, that rules are laid down by managers, and that managers are frequently useless idiots (I defy anyone to quibble with that proposition).

If someone’s enforcing a stupid rule which is actually a rule laid down by management, they admit that it’s a rule laid down by management that they have no authority to do anything about, and they don’t BACAI, then being anything other than civil and polite with them is morally wrong. We all have to eat, and anyone drawing parallels between Boncentration Bamp guards and junior call centre bods is a knobend.

However, the situation becomes slightly different when you’re dealing with someone who actually thinks they’re a force for good, rather than merely enforcing a stupid rule that they’re too stupid to understand is a stupid rule. This encompasses about half of the people wearing uniforms in airports who don’t have advanced training in flying aeroplanes, firing guns or spying, as well as the vast majority of security guards and PCSOs elsewhere. In fact, it’s pretty much solely confined to occupations where you can wear a uniform and exercise power over people despite knowing fuck-all and having fuck-all skills (the other 50% of people in such jobs fall into the first category, of knowing how pointless and stupid the role is but needing to get paid. They deserve nothing but respect and sympathy).

I’m not rude to these people, except in abstract. Not because they don’t deserve it – they do, and if everyone treated them with the lack of respect that they deserved, uniformed-muppet-interaction situations like airports would become much less unpleasant. I remain polite to them at all times partly because I believe that publicly losing one’s temper generally loses one the argument, and partly because there are lots of them and have the right to kick me out of their mall/airport (and in the event that the only way to resolve the dispute is to call the real police then “being in the right, completely calm and that’s backed up by the CCTV footage” is a helpful way of ensuring that you win in the longer term [*]).

However, that’s solely a personal, pragmatic decision. I don’t hold anything whatsoever morally against people who react to the latter group in the manner they’ve entirely provoked.

And hence, the title of this post. Nobody should be spat at or subjected to physical violence as part of their job, unless they’re in a punk band or a boxing match. But if you take the point of your job as “being an arsehole”, then “having people be rude to you” ought to be a part of your job description, not something which is oh-so-terrible-and-traumatic from which you deserve legal protection. And on that basis, as long as the reaction remains verbal rather than spit- or punch-based, I’m 100% in favour (standing offer to all readers: provide evidence of a public servant’s arsehole-y ness, and evidence that you’ve verbally abused said arsehole, and I’ll buy you a drink).

I’m aware of claims that people in customer services roles who react in the former manner, by apologetically following the rules, are also subjected to abuse. I simply don’t believe it – every customer services person I’ve ever seen abused was one who followed the rules gleefully, rather than empathetically. I’ve never seen a customer services person who actually appeared to understand and care about a customer’s problem get into any trouble whatsoever [**] [***].

[*] the one interaction with arsehole-ish authority that I’m still grumpy about giving up on was Christmas Eve a year and a bit ago – a South West Trains ticket inspector demanded a penalty fare despite the fact that I had a valid ticket, and I was barely-on-time for a family dinner – if I’d had nothing better to do, I’d have happily called the police myself and calmly noted that a burly man was holding me under false arrest.

[**] this is the difference between “you should have been here 30 minutes before your flight” and “I’m sorry, but the management has said I can’t let people on within 30 minutes of the flight. No, I don’t understand the rule either, I know you don’t have any luggage and you could easily make it to the gate, but I’m not allowed to let you on. Here’s a complaints form, please write to the management and ask them why they enforce this policy and if they could change it”. I’ve seen both done; the first makes people boil, the second deflects any boiling to the people whose fault the boiling actually is.

[***] before posting counter-examples from personal work experience, I recommend thinking very carefully about whether they reflect primarily on my argument or your skillset.

Disappointing bureaucrats

In general, the New South Wales drivers theory test is a Bumper Book of Common Sense. However, I’m disappointed by question FD035:

FD035 – Fatigue and Defensive Driving RUH
You are driving an older relative for an appointment and are running late. They ask you to go faster to get there on time. You should –
a) Choose a safe speed and say you will not go any faster
b) Take the advice of a more experience driver and go faster where you can.
c) Drop them off at the train station.

According to the Bumper Book of Common Sense, a) is the only permissible answer.

This is bad and wrong. When some silly old sod is hassling a kid (since 95%+ of Australians learn to drive in their teens) to drive dangerously, “here’s the train station, now piss off” is clearly the most appropriate response…

The idle musings of John B