29 Nov 2011

Email from the Cleggster (Robin Hood Tax)

"Thank you very much for contacting Nick to put forward your support for a Financial Transaction Tax (aka Robin Hood Tax).


As you may be aware the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the last election stated that Liberal Democrats would work with other countries to establish new sources of development financing, including bringing forward proposals for a financial transaction tax.

This position has not changed since we entered government and we continue to support a financial transaction tax in principle. However, the tax would not raise sufficient monies if it were introduced on a unilateral basis. To counter avoidance, it would have to be introduced across all of the major financial centres, including London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. Although the introduction of an FTT within the EU alone may appear attractive, as it would embrace transactions in London, Paris and Frankfurt, it would almost certainly lead to a major diversion of trade to North America and the Far East, with London being the biggest loser.  One EU Member State, Sweden, introduced a variant of the FTT and saw an immediate switch of business to London. The tax was thus a double disaster as it failed to raise revenue and caused a loss to the Swedish economy.

It is important to also note that the proposed FTT in the EU would provide a direct ‘own resource’ for the EU budget and there is no consensus on what this would fund. While the EU does have an aid programme, most of its budget (approx 40%) is spent on the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). Many campaign groups believe that CAP is bad for fair trade and have lobbied against it. An FTT for the EU would thus have the perverse effect of supporting a project that goes against the beliefs of the charity which has campaigned so vigorously in favour of it – Oxfam. One of the Coalition Government’s policies I am most proud of is our commitment to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on international aid, a goal the UK has failed to reach since was set in 1970.

The Coalition Government remains committed to ensuring that banks and bankers contribute to the economic recovery, this is why we announced the annual levy on bank’s balance sheets. . It will apply to both the global balance sheets of UK banks and the UK operations of banks from other countries. Once fully in place, the levy is expected to generate around £2.5 billion of annual revenues.

My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I continue to support the Robin Hood campaign’s aims. We have taken action to meet our international aid commitments, taken one million people out of paying income tax and increased taxes on banks and bankers through our bank levy and increase in capital gains tax. Please rest assured that we will continue to fulfil our manifesto commitment to work towards a global financial transaction tax.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Nick Clegg MP"

To which I raise the following issues:

1. Is Sweden considered an influencial financial centre like the City?
2. Is Frankfurt not considered a financial centre?  Why have both Angela Merkel and Sarkozy agreed to a transactions tax (despite being from the right of their respective political arenas?)
3.  Whilst there is not yet agreement on how the revenue would be spent, is that a reason for writing it off as a policy?
4. As a side point, how much of the £2.5bn 'generated' from the bank levy 'once it's in place' will be spent on jobseekers allowance from the multitude of public sector workers facing the sack in the next few years.

So... so many other points.  The idea that the UK is fully behind 'fair trade'.  If we were behind that, we would not support the IMF.  I shouldn't get wound up by a fucking tory shill like Clegg, but he's my MP - its my privilege.

Have this:



27 Nov 2011

Flicker



Kee....p  L....eft. Kkk...eeeep... Le.....ft.

23 Nov 2011

One Day It Will Finally Die

2 world's collide!  Time to fack off away from Adobe Flash and get with the html5.  Standards For The People!

More at occupyflash.org.

If only the Beeb would stop fucking using it for iPlayer...

11 Nov 2011

Down With The Sadness

Where I work, we have no natural light.

Consequently, when we reach this time of year, it's a case of travelling to work in the dark, sitting in a windowless office, and then going home in the dark.

For months and months, we had a conspiracy to put "get a window for the office" on every single meeting agenda until the boss snapped and said "Look, it isn't happening!"*

As a compromise however, we were told that we could try our some SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamps to see if that improves things at all.  I was sceptical of the science, however the most basic of researching online seems to suggest that certain UV frequencies found in natural light can be generated by these lamps, and can contribute to better wellbeing.  How much so, I don't know, but worth a try at the very least.  Its not like they're 15 minute Tan-Cancer machines or anything.

A few days ago, a colleague returned from another office with SAD lamp in hand.  I could see fellow colleagues having it angled at walls, above their heads and reflecting off surfaces, along with comments such as "Well, it definitely seems a bit brighter" and "Yes, that does... something".

Flash forward to this morning, where we receive a call "Emma wants her lamp back".  Her lamp?  Yes, it turns out.  The lamp that had been fetched certainly did have positive properties: that of providing light for a desk.  We've been sitting trying to glean good health and cheer from an ordinary desk lamp for the past two days.  We now have the SAD lamp, and it looks nothing like a desk lamp.

*In an unusual turn of events, the draft plan for a refurbishment of the building includes 3 windows for our office.  Our hard work obviously was noticed.

10 Nov 2011

38 degrees email to Cleggy


If there ever was a time for a financial transactions tax, now would be it.

As a constituent in Sheffield, I can already see the effects of a deficit caused by bailing out a financial sector that took risks without considering the consequences on ordinary people.  

The Tobin Tax (or Robin Hood tax) could contribute to calming speculation, and raise money for those who have no friends in the city, let alone an Eton or Westminster education.  

No longer is it case of the UK going it alone: France, Germany and Brazil have agreed.  As a country with a significant financial sector (for better or worse) we could be a beacon of progressive thought on the matter.  Or we could revert to business as usual, where an ever growing number are feeling alienated not just from a bloated financial sector that has learned nothing, but alienated further from the political system of which you are a part.

2 Nov 2011

Bog Jazz

There's a toilet in the building where I work, and it has one of those frames on the door designed for holding posters, however no ever puts any kind of advertising or notices in there.

Poor show.

Well, no one did before myself and some colleagues starting putting our own notices in there, often of a radical bent. So far (often for fortnightly stretches) we have had writing from William Blake, 19th century expressions of feminism, pieces of humorous verse and the surreal. On a recent trip there, one of my Noam Chomsky quotes appeared to have violently been removed from its holder.

"Brilliant" I thought "look at the passion we're inspiring".

 As who removed it remains a mystery, my only choice is to keep putting more quotes in there. This week's quote is from the final part of the Port Huron statement, written by Students For A Democratic Society in 1962.

19 Oct 2011

Dare I Say It

Not aligned with formal political movements. Emphasis on the regular population taking on powerful institutions and the nature of the nation state. Consensus-based decision-making. Internationalist and plural. (Shh. Don't mention the 'A' word).

11 Oct 2011

22 Sep 2011

Roger

Anyone who has worked in a place with a large number of employees will be familiar with large cards being circulated for birthdays, leaving, condolences etc.

In a place where I used to work, there were 130 staff in the department.  Frequently, it was my job to help circulate the signing of best wishes between the buildings that housed the different sections.  What struck me was that, despite being in different buildings and seldom seeing other staff outside their own section, people still felt an obligation to sign whatever was put in front of them.

After a while, I started to sign not just my own name, but also the name of a mysterious staff member called 'Roger'.  Roger's handwriting was recognisable in that it was a dense scrawl, with letters small in size, indicating someone who is shy and unassuming.  The messages I wrote usually were steeped in either regret or sadness: if the card was for someone leaving the department, it would usually be something along the lines of "Sorry I didn't get to know you better. x Roger" and if it was a birthday "Have a great day with your friends. x Roger".

Years later and now I work in somewhere a bit smaller.  Thankfully, even though I have moved, Roger has moved with me.  Even in cards that are intended for me, I notice that Roger's signature is in there - I have created a monster.  A quiet, slightly depressed, unassuming monster.  I even overheard a colleague saying "So where does Roger work?" and a cabal of conspirators ad libbing something about him being on a temporary contract for a number of years, or saying that he's generally locked away doing data input.


3 Sep 2011

Nothing Really Lasts

The latest in my series of robot-related crockery.

18 Aug 2011

Uni

On this A Level results day I would like to write about a different sort of Uni, that is, a type of sushi common in Japan:


So that picture makes it look like it's a riceball, wrapped in seaweed and topped with something that looks a bit like butternut squash, but you'd be wrong.

The scent of it was fairly neutral, somewhere between a sea breeze and an indoor market.  I decided to take the plunge and gobble the whole lot down.  At first the texture reminded me of froth that you might find at a dirty seaside pier somewhere, however as the dish was cold there wasn't loads of flavour... yet.  As I chewed, the frothy, dirty seaside pier flavours gradually got stronger, but disappointingly, didn't break down that much in my mouth.

More and more, the fishmarket floorwater taste got stronger in my mouth, and my only option was to swallow quickly, aided by warm sake.  Urgh.  That was disgusting.

Uni is actually the gonad of the sea urchin.  There's a reason you don't see at that many restaurants - it's a gastromic human rights violation.

9 Aug 2011

Live Flames

Being 9 hours ahead in Japan, I've managed to watch quite a lot of the rioty stuff as it happened.  Apart from watching bemused, it's felt like a strange disconnection knowing that I'm thousands of miles away.

It's irritating to hear certain talking heads on the radio coming up with answers so quickly, as if a dickhead snowball effect can be rounded up into one simple explanation.  If anything, its people seeing that they can break shit, and so going out and doing it.  As one wag said this morning "technology is to blame, the technology of fire".

I think we're going to see a lot of bullshit from all quarters about this.  On one side, retired colonel types will call for marshal law and the army being called in, and some types on indymedia disappointingly say that trashing small shops, many of which have individuals and families living above, is part of some greater revolution.  A revolution about electrical goods or something.

A victim here has been pride about where people live, and how people can be so disconnected that the welfare of who they share a town or city with is worth less than a flame and a couple of lols.

The #riotcleanup hashtag is a nice touch, but its a shame that that dedication to sorting out our cities requires a riot to inspire it.

Yours from the other side of the globe.

Skillz.

30 Jul 2011

Teens

"We know that you’re too busy fighting off your biological urges and being l33t hax0rs to Get Involved, but politics is cool, m’kay?Nobody ever seems to do anything for The Kids! All the decisions are made by suits, man. That’s so lame!!! We know you think of yourselves as responsible citizens, but what you wanna do is turn that thought into an action, dudes.

Get involved – to the extreme!
The BBC politics for kids/teens site is, like, totally wacked! Ditto for theParliament education site, which even has a section for younger yoof. Fanta-stick!
YoungGov is totally the business for having your say, and there are even wicked Youth Parliament sites for the UKScotland and Europe.
(Hey, chill with the anti-Europe vibes already! You totally won’t be able to wear the word ‘fcuk’ on your shirt anymore if we break our connection with France, y’dig? ROFFLE!)
So, cut it with the bling bling and do something for the community, man. Join in and take action with any of the groovy sites we’ve listed, or just drop Tom a linefor a quiet rap by the electronic e-mail. Tom’s well-up on the Interwebnet, and he won’t harsh your buzz or dis you down the line."
From the 'Teens' section of the Tom Watson MP's website.  Awesome.

28 Jul 2011

17 Jul 2011

I Don't Know What To Think Of This

Shower Review - Violent Bank Road

Since my last shower at Violent Bank Road, there have been changes worth noting.  The old shower that was installed there was, admittedly, better than my own shower (mine being one of them plug-into-the-taps types, which is great is you have amazing water pressure, but I generally regard as 'dribble showers').

So it was with a sense of excitement that I entered the bathroom to see what great leaps forward have taken place.  Naturally I went to towards the shower unit:


Hmm.  That doesn't look like a cracking new shower to me.  In fact, that cabinet and box of magazines would only really hinder the enjoyment of the experience.


A quick scan round revealed that the new shower unit has been installed over the sizeable corner bath - good move.  Its like the best of both worlds - a large bath to move around in combined with the convenience of a shower.  Here's what the control centre looked like:


No turning to switch it on here - a straight push button.  I liked this very much.  'Ker-spimp! Shhhhhhh!' for on, and 'SHHHH Ker-spimp! Shhhhh-tt' for off.  A tip for future users: Probably worth turning it on before you have disrobed as it does take a bit of time to get up to temperature.  But my, when it does, excellent!

I notice that the brand is a Triton.  When I lived in Nether Edge, I remember my Auntie Eileen returning from our bathroom cooing 'Ooh, you've got a Triton!' as if it was some kind of designer brand.  We then told her that the shower was disconnected and hadn't been used for around 11 years while we waited for my dad to retile the bath.  It was baths or sink washes for us, that's if the whippet wasn't in there being scrubbed, or we weren't eating our diet of coal.


Let's talk about spray patterns:  The 'default', as I found it, was through all of little holes in the shower head, but a turn anti-clockwise will give you another 4.  My favourite was the 'concentrated through the outer-rings' setting, which has a slightly massaging effect.  The fire-it-through-the-middle-holes setting seemed a bit pointless, as did some of the others.  I did make a point yesterday of trying to memorise all of the spray settings, but unfortunately, some of the others obviously didn't make enough of an aqueous impact on me.  I would say that many of these were just an afterthought or empty marketing.

But all in all, very enjoyable and would recommend, and a streets ahead of the former model:






6 Jul 2011

Murdoch Lulz

I love seeing News International suffer.

[end of post]

20 Jun 2011

Gold-plated Greedy Motherfuckers That We Can Ill-afford

People are living longer.


Pensions will cost the country more.


The bill is rising.


Not if you read the Daily Telegraph:


"This is not a demographic timebomb which if left unaddressed will completely sink the public finances."

That isn't a lefty source - that's from the Hutton report that the government is apparently using as justification for slashing pension provision.

19 Jun 2011

Come On, Let's Testicle Pull-And-Twist Again

This book was found in a room in Halifax Hall*·




*Thanks go to David Roe for find this gem.


12 Jun 2011

doubling up

It would be remiss of me not to mention the other blog I sometimes contribute to.

Hacking And Cracking The Slack Hacks

This is a completely pointless and unobtainable campaign, but its really starting to grind my gears to hear the word 'hacker' used in the press with negative connotations.  The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 seemingly makes this error on an almost weekly basis.  I was even surprised by the Technology editor of the Guardian recently making this error.

Just to recap:

Mozilla Firefox - built by hackers


VLC media player - built by hackers


GNU/Linux and all the associated software in the repositories - built by hackers


The entire working protocols of what we call the INTERNET - built by hackers

I've been annoyed by this lack of distinction for a long time, and recently I finished reading The Cathedral And The Bazaar by Eric Raymond, and in his book he espouses precisely my point:

"There's another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers but aren't.  These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system.  Real hackers call these people 'crackers' and want nothing to do with them.  Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn't make you a hacker any more that being able to hotwire a car makes you an automotive engineer...  The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break them."


So if you're a journalist: crackers bad, hackers good.  Simple as.

5 Jun 2011

Thank You - How Very Charitable

Obama said stuff at a place.  Some people didn't realise he was just saying words.  His words were better than some of his earlier words (they didn't like his earlier words).  Obama made his words sound like other presidents' words.  Obama will now get more votes.  Its a miracle.

30 May 2011

Recursive Review

Ever wondered if anyone ever reads this? Turns out a couple of people do, but I can see now the importance of being ahead of the game, as these blog stats below illustrate:



So Libya's leader storms ahead of bestiality, closely followed by egoism. Apple fanbois and GiRLS will always reprazent also. Who knows, maybe I'll pick a topic at some point that will 'trend' in 2012. Or maybe I'll keep writing about technology, surrealism, politics and punk rock. I predict the latter.

Jesus BT

No great work of literature this, just continued frustration.

My internet connection has be patchy of late, gradually becoming non-existent, especially on weekends. The problem lies in no dial tone. BT said 3 days to repair but I've heard nothing yet. I suppose part of the problem is not spotting the phone issue, as who the fuck uses landlines except the elderly, the criminal fraternity and the mentally ill.

I now exist as a kind of web vagrant, stealing whatever bandwidth I can glean from outside pubs, and sometimes attempting to guess the passwords of my neighbours. HINT: its not 'wireless' or 'password'.

If I'm really desperate, I bluetooth in to my old skool mobile, but I dread to think of what the charges are, and its speed is laughable. Still, at least I have a portable modem of sorts.

1 May 2011

MASh

"Mutual Aid Sheffield (M.A.SH) is a voluntary group providing solidarity and support for strikes, workplace actions and community struggles through direct action. The group is open to any worker or unemployed person across any sector. It is independent of all political parties and trade unions and is non-profit.

MASH works through direct action to help every member of the group with problems like: crap landlords, housing issues, benefit claims, problems with access to public services, bullying and victimisation, sexual harassment, discrimination and unpaid wages.
MASH operates on a non-hierarchical basis and roles are shared and rotated.
MASH works towards consensus in its decision making. It is strictly anti-discrimination and any form of prejudice; racism, sexism, homophobia will not be tolerated in the group.
MASH operates through self-organisation; the group will support people to take up their own struggles but cannot do things for people without their involvement. The principle of mutual aid requires that we all help each other with our struggles; if people want help they have to help others."

25 Apr 2011

Nazi Carpentry

This is genuine I swear.

17 Apr 2011

Oft-Misspelled

On noticing the word 'Esspresso' in an establishment, I tentatively suggested the removal of the supplementary 's'.  The following conversation occurred.

Me: Looks like you've got a spare 's' on your spelling of 'espresso' pointing at sign
Staff Member: Oh yeah
Pause
Staff Member: Well on the tills it says 'Expresso' [gives pained expression]
Me: Ouch!  I hate that one
Staff Member: Sometimes its not worth getting too bothered about things that pacific.

[exeunt]

The Co-op Strikes A Blow Against 'Incentive Culture'

250g of Marmite costs £2.42

If you're an idiot, you can buy twice as much at over double the price.

Well done pricers.

3 Apr 2011

Census

As its been a week since the census has taken place, I suppose its time I got mine sent off.  This time (as has been reported) the work is being done by Lockheed Martin UK, a subsidiary of the US arms company who are ranked number one in terms of military sales.  They might say they do other stuff too, but arms selling represents 97% of their total business, based on 2006 figures*.  They've been responsible for selling F16 fighter jets to friends of ours such as Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, UAE, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Greece and Turkey.  There's also a nice sideline in missiles, ballistic missiles, and the odd nuclear weapon**.

My obvious first instinct would be to have nothing to do with it, and potentially face a £1000 fine, although out of an estimated 1m people who did not complete it in 2001, only 36 were successfully prosecuted.  And as well as that, the census is useful for local authorities to apply for funding for vulnerable groups, so not filling it in could actually be counter-productive.

Those dangerous bastards, the Quakers, however, formed a useful guide in staying compliant whilst costing Lockheed more money in administrative costs, and I've used that as my inspiration for how I and my housemate, The Independent Scholar, have completed ours.

The general gist is to prevent the automation of data gathering, so where possible, we have fucked up this process royally by writing outside of boxes, giving lengthy answers that won't fit in the allocated spaces, putting permanent marker over the barcodes (there is no instruction that says 'Please do not write below this line') and finally, sending it back in a plain envelope, rather than one that can be scanned.  Chopping off the spine of the form so that the sheets are loose is optional.

In terms of my job description, I started the 'brief ' overview with the words 'I suppose..' and then the actual description is out of the box, including some of my day to day tasks such as "Filling in forms".  I've also thrown in a couple of scribbles and the odd 'woops sorry' and pointy arrows to the correct boxes.

*From their 2006 annual report
**From Flight International

29 Mar 2011

Ah. IC(C)

It seems suggested that certain countries want to offer Gaddafi a 'way out'.  Obama's administration (especially Hillary Clinton) has stated they would prefer to see him prosecuted.  Maybe this would be easier if the US joined the International Criminal Court?  Or maybe I'm being stupid.

12 Mar 2011

Welcome BackTo Sheffield Nick

Photo by Marek Allen 
At one point, I was staring through a gap in the security fence, and I heard an jowelly man in tweed behind me sigh and then say "The Trotskyist Middle Classes are at it again" to which in my head I thought "As too are the grumpy apathetic hasbeens".  At the risk of sounding condescending, I don't think many of the schoolkids there would agree heartily with Trotskyism.

What a lot of police though.

10 Mar 2011

3 Mar 2011

Fun Bumps

When I was younger I thought that a standard feature of garden walls was to have small metal lumps across them.



Now, as school history taught me, I know that the removal of railings was due to them being cut off and melted to make munitions during the second world war, but its strange how this should still impact on me growing up in the 1980s (and to this day).  Average earnings were far lower back then, and yet railings were important.  Over 65 odd years later, they're still not replaced.  I'm not sure whether this is a Sheffield, a Northern, or a national thing.

25 Feb 2011

Maybe al-Qaida Aren't That Bad

They give you coffee and hallucinogenic drugs (if Gaddafi is to be believed).  It does seem reminiscent of decadent western behaviour, but then, when were they ever consistent?

18 Feb 2011

Dear BBC

Whilst your top brass have decided against using the term 'electoral reform' in describing the planned AV referendum, you don't seem to mind using 'First Past The Post' to describe the current system.

Could you explain precisely what 'post' the winning candidate 'passes'? 45%? 40%? Oh hang on, they don't pass any post.  I can understand why you do not use the rather academic 'simple plurality' term, but how about something more suitable such as 'the present system' or the (somewhat inelegant) 'winner takes all'.

15 Feb 2011

Vericola Exposed

After the 'Mark Stone' affair, its interesting to see a case closer to home.

Rebecca Todd, the CEO of private security firm Vericola accidentally outed herself as a spy by errm... copying in activists by mistake when sending an email from her Blackberry.

Amongst their targets were Climate Camp, London Rising Tide, Plane Stupid and Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

Sheffield Indymedia have the story here (along with embarrassing photos).

In the 80's it was MI5 that tried to infiltrate trades unions and campaign groups.  2011 is all about corporate spying.

Shop your local spook!

13 Feb 2011

7 Feb 2011

France and Germany

Have suspended arms sales to Egypt.  Bit late now, one might argue, but better than nothing.  The UK on the other hand has not, probably due to our sales to Egypt being worth millions of pounds, and sales to the region being worth far more.

If the Blair/Brown governments were bad, then a new adjective should be created for the current one.  I hand the floor to Gerald Howarth MP:

"This government has been very clear from the outset and so have I: we are proud to support the biggest defence exports drive in decades"

M'aidez

We've had the May Day holiday since the 4th century.  Jim Callaghan tied it in to International Workers' Day in the 1970's.  Now the Tories want to ditch it.  Well not completely: they want to move it to October and rename it UK Day.

What balls.

It more like they were itching to get rid of it for being linked with lefty causes.  The reason actually given is to help tourism and extend the holiday season. In which case, why not both?  We have among the fewest public holidays in Europe, and we tend to have them in quite bizarre places (why don't we have one in July when the weather is at its best?).

Another option would be to have regional specific public holidays like Spain do.  We could have Yorkshire Thrift Day, where we demonstrate our character by not shopping and trying to make ends meet.  Clogs are optional.

A UK Day is a stupid concept.  Considering the United Kingdom has only existed since 1921, it doesn't seem worthy of a day of patriotism.  And patriotism sucks anyway.

6 Feb 2011

Raves and Capitalism

"In the rave there is a scream of refusal, a breaking of windows, a walking in the wrong direction, a creation of social relations on a basis other than money. This is what I call a 'crack' in capitalist social relations: a conscious or not-so-conscious misfitting, a refusal-and-creation, a refusal to go with the capitalist flow and an attempt to establish life on a different basis here-and-now.


In the rave there is a contradiction between fitting and misfitting: a tension between 'let's get the kids off the streets and give them a good night out' and let's explode against a world in which the reality principle is identical to money'.  How do we relate to this tension?  Which side do we take?"

John Holloway

3 Feb 2011

Fragrance

Men's shower gels and body sprays always smell horrible, consequently, I use ladies ones.

But why are they designated male and female?  As far as I'm aware there's a glorious and inglorious history of perfumes being sought, manufactured and distributed by both men and women, going back around 4000 years.

My only guess would be its probably a combination of psychology (in the same way that pink is a 'female' colour) tradition and chemistry.  There is the wide use of human pheromones such as Androstadienone in the manufacture of scents, however that link there also suggests that much is marketing bluster, as one would expect. 

Conclusion: Inconclusive.

Its also interesting to note that the term Reverse Engineering also exists in the world of perfumery.

24 Jan 2011

Practically A Month

Its been, but hey, its qualit... oh.  Anyway, I made this website in the meantime.  Initially I attempted to use some cms software to make it, but got frustrated by drop down boxes and 'templates' which make whatever you want to do look shit.

So, following what I've always done, I nicked some stuff from other people and tweaked it.  Kittens are nice too.